Gov. Rick Scott is hoping Floridians will give him four more years and formally kicked off his reelection campaign with a rally in Jacksonville on Monday.
Scott made his pitch at the Volkswagen of Orange Park, on 7220 Blanding Boulevard. Scott, along with U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, state Sens. John Thrasher and Rob Bradley and other prominent Republicans from the greater Jacksonville area made the case for the governor's reelection and recited the campaign chant: "Let's keep working."
The event was the the first of eight planned rallies around the state to talk about the centerpiece of Scott's campaign: $500 million in tax cuts that were just approved by the Florida Legislature.
“This is our year," Scott said at the rally. "We've had four great sessions. We have changed the direction of the state. We've got to keep it up.
“We've got to keep working to lower taxes, improve education (and) make sure we keep a low crime rate.”
Before kicking off his "Help is on the Way!" tour, Scott appeared on Channel 4's "The Morning Show."
"Florida taxpayers deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money," Scott told Channel 4's Bruce Hamilton.
The race to lead the state has been going on long before Scott's official kickoff, and most polls have Scott trailing his biggest challenger, former Florida governor and democratic candidate Charlie Crist.
The governor's running on his track record, talking about his accomplishments, as he prepares for an all out battle against Crist.
Scott said he cut taxes 25 times while in office to the tune of $500 million. He said he's increased tourism and stopped tuition rate increases, blaming Crist for Florida's failed economy in the past.
"In 2010, think of where we were, we had 1.1 million people out of work, 832,000 lost their jobs in four years because of Charlie Crist," Scott said at the Jacksonville rally. "They couldn't pay the rent, pay for the car, couldn't put food on the table.”
A spokesperson for Charlie Crist refuted those claims, saying the governor is taking credit for a national trend.
”We had tough economic times, and we're coming out of that with a national recovery, but the facts are Florida's consumer confidence is down and Rick Scott is trying to take credit for a national economy," Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said. "This is the guy who tried to cut $4.8 billion in his first few weeks as governor.”
Scott said he also helped to decrease corporate business taxes to attract out-of-state companies. He said crime in Florida has also decreased under his administration, something Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said he could attest to.
”Nothing reduces crime like a great economy," Rutherford said at Monday's rally. "That's why we are at a 43-year low. Want to decrease crime? Give people a job.”
Crist leads Scott 48 percent to 38 percent in this year's gubernatorial race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
Scott's campaign has spent more than $4 million on television advertising, mostly attacking Crist's support of the Affordable Care Act.
In turn, Crist has called Scott ethically suspect and out of touch with Floridians.
“I think it's going to be a very negative race," said Matthew Corrigan, political science professor at the University of North Florida. "You have an incumbent who is not doing as well as incumbents normally do in a reelection race and so he wants to take some of the attention off of him and put it on his opponent."
Corrigan said the campaign ahead for Scott will be much different from his first.
“His money made a big difference and they had a very effective message: let’s get to work. Who can argue against that?" Corrigan said. "Now four years later, I think all of his money is going to make less of a difference because people know him now."
Corrigan stressed that what really matters in the midterm, who is successful, will depend on voter turnout.
In addition to Jacksonville, Scott plans to visit Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Miami, West Palm Beach and Panama City.
Although Scott's campaign ads are focused against Crist, there are other people running against Scott, including former Democratic State Senator Nan Rich.