Black tie, blue jeans; Gov. Rick Scott, Republican hopefuls attend BBQ fundraiser


Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks with supporters during the 10th Annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ on Thursday in Newberry.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.

Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack and other politicians rolled into Alachua County Thursday evening for a night of barbecue, blue jeans and Budweiser with local Republicans.

Between 500 and 600 people turned out for the Alachua County Republican Party’s annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ at the Canterbury Equestrian Showplace in Newberry.

From the Budweiser station in one corner and tables filled with tasty dishes from David’s Real Pit BBQ, the event gave people a chance to enjoy good food and good conversation and an opportunity to shake hands with their governor and other Republican politicians like U.S. House candidate Ted Yoho.

Donning a pair of blue jeans, Scott took the stage in the darkened, open-air venue as the night’s final speaker to the cheers of conservatives scattered among tables decorated with American flag centerpieces and red or blue tablecloths.

“We’ve got to have a change in Washington,” he told the crowd.

Scott said it was important for everyone present to encourage people to get to the polls. He thanked them for all they’ve done during the election season, from knocking on doors to making phone calls to promote Republican candidates like Mack, Yoho and, of course, presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“These elections matter. What you do matters,” he said. “If we get out the vote, we’re going to win.”

He said he chokes up a little bit when he thinks of all the Floridians who went to the polls in 2010 to vote for him. They made a difference then when they elected him and other Republicans to state office, and they can do it again now.

Scott emphasized the importance of voting Thursday evening hours after state Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith called for him to extend early voting through Sunday to accommodate the record number of voters turning out to the polls in advance of Election Day.

In a post-barbecue interview, he said early voting would end Saturday night as planned and stressed the need for everyone to get out to vote as soon as they can.

“We’re going to make sure everybody has an opportunity to vote ... ” he said.

Earlier Thursday, Scott met with college trustees to discuss the importance of maintaining tuition rates instead of hiking the price of higher education for students.

“We’ve got to make sure we hold the line on tuition,” he said.

Before Scott spoke for a few minutes to close out the barbecue, Mack, Yoho, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and others took some time at the podium to talk about the 2012 election.

Carroll said this election is about the nation’s future, not political parties. She complimented Scott for pouring his “heart and soul” into his job and for taking on the mantle of governor even though he lacked prior political experience.

“But he saw a need to put himself out there and make a difference, particularly in the lives of Floridians,” she said.

Mack slammed his Democratic opponent, incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, as “the definition of a career politician.” He promised that unlike Nelson, who voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, he would work to repeal it if elected.

With supporters of President Barack Obama calling for four more years of service, he said Republicans had their own mantra Thursday night, just four days out from Election Day.

“We’ve got a different chant: Four more days,” he said, eliciting cheers from many at the barbecue who hope Obama’s bid for a second term as president ends on Nov. 6.

Winston Rushing, 73, a retiree from Alachua who previously worked in agriculture, said Scott and the others were “on target” with their speeches.

Michelle Rhoades, 39, a massage therapist from Gainesville, said she thought Scott’s speech was excellent.

“He’s done a lot of good for the state of Florida,” she said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 352-338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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