Don’t expect a kumbaya moment between Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran anytime soon. On Tuesday, the two sharpened their blades and readied for battle, setting the stage for the expected rocky legislative session. But their drama began long before they made headlines this week.
The latest chapter in the ongoing saga between Scott and Corcoran began Tuesday morning when the governor slammed the Florida House of Representatives for threatening to savage Scott’s twin pride and joy, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott has heralded these two programs as boons to the economy and job creators in the Sunshine State.
“They don’t care about people’s jobs,” Scott told reporters. “These are individuals who haven’t experienced what I went through as a child; have never been in business; don’t know the difficulty of building a business; must not think about the importance of business or jobs; are not thinking about their constituents … They are individuals who have never been in business and they want to lecture me.”
The lengthy availability was unusual for Scott, who has made it a point during the last seven years to answer few questions in the fewest words possible and quickly bolt from the press.
The remarks seemed like an off-script departure from Scott’s usual talking points about building an economy and bringing jobs into the state — or perhaps the comments had been bubbling under the surface for quite some time and the governor was finally able to let them all out.
At one point, Scott got personal, criticizing an unnamed figure for having higher political ambitions than just the Florida House — remarks which largely point to Speaker Corcoran, who is widely speculated to be running for governor in 2018.
“Now what we’re seeing is, we’re seeing people that just want to run for higher office,” Scott said. “They’re not concerned about what happens to other people.”
Scott and Corcoran have clashed before. Just last year, Corcoran closed off $250 million in incentive money for EFI as the House budget chair, a significant blow to Scott’s agenda.
What, exactly, is the beef between Scott and Corcoran?
The answer is complicated. The personal clash between the two Republican heavyweights involves several other players, including one who wields significant influence in state GOP politics: Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
Ingoglia’s rise to the top of the RPOF came as he rolled over one of Scott’s own, his personal candidate and incumbent party leader, Leslie Dougher.
Here’s how the story went: Dougher already climbed to the top of the chain at the RPOF in 2014 after Lenny Curry left to run for mayor of Jacksonville. By the time January rolled around, Dougher went for reelection — a battle she and many other Republicans were sure she would win over Ingoglia, who at the time served as vice chair.
Scott endorsed her, drawing a line in the sand.
Corcoran is known as one of the shrewdest players in Florida politics, “sending armies of flying monkeys to do his bidding while he oversees in his watchtower,” keeping his own hands clean and not leaving much of a trail.
The Land O’ Lakes Republican introduced current RPOF chairman Blaise Ingoglia for that job all the way back in 2015. Insiders say Corcoran told Scott he would back Dougher for the job, but gathered up all the numbers to unseat her behind Scott’s back.
The result: Dougher lost, receiving only 90 ballots to Ingoglia’s 132. Pandemonium ensued, with RPOF staffers resigning and quickly leaving the Rosen Plaza Hotel after Dougher’s defeat.
Scott, blindsided by a betrayal many say was orchestrated by Corcoran, left the party and now fundraises solo. He has not made any indication he will return to raise cash with the RPOF since.
The governor has been unable to quickly forgive and forget.
“Once you go against him, he’s leery of you forever,” one source close to the governor told SSN. “He never forgets.”
So Scott once again tried to unseat Ingoglia — last month, when his time as chair was up. This year’s opponent was Sarasota County committeeman Christian Ziegler.
Ziegler denied being put up to the job by the governor, but acknowledged he and Scott were close, having conversations leading up to the RPOF chair race.
“I have a good relationship with the governor and I’m not going to apologize for it,” Ziegler told SSN before the election. “I will leverage [that relationship] in the best interest of the party.”
Ziegler ultimately lost the race, and Ingoglia was reinstated as chair, considered a key win for Corcoran should he decide to move forward with a bid for governor.
Money and fundraising are key components to a high-profile statewide race. With Ingoglia by his side, Corcoran would already have the financial backing to put him in a good position for a gubernatorial run.
Meanwhile, both Scott and Corcoran continue to fan the flames of their ongoing drama, which only seems to get hotter by the day.
Said Corcoran on Scott’s remarks:
“We were elected to do what is right and clean up government, put an end to the waste of taxpayer money, and end the culture of corruption. The governor cannot be surprised that we will do the right thing, regardless of the consequences.”