Rick Scott Goes Back to Roots in Visit to State Farm in Winter Haven

Oct 14, 2010

The article was published in The Ledger on October 14, 2010: 

By Merissa Green


Republican candidate for Governor Rick Scott speaks during the State Farm employees candidate forum, Thursday, October 14, 2010 in Winter Haven, Florida.

He was born in Bloomington, Ill., where the company was founded, he said. All his relatives worked for State Farm, including his mother who was paid 44 cents an hour when she was a high school student during the company’s beginnings, he said. His uncle worked for State Farm for more than 30 years, he told the crowd.

He also said the company has to be profitable.

“Insurance has to make a profit or it won’t be around,” Scott said. “I’m running for governor because we’ve got to get the American dream going again.”

But with the regulations state businesses face, making a profit is difficult, Scott said.

“We have got to go back to changing how we do business,” said Scott, who is the founder of two health care companies.

Scott was joined at the event by several Polk candidates for various offices.

The candidates who spoke were all Republicans except for Joshua Davis, an independent running in state House District 65. The other candidates were Dennis Ross, who is running for Congress, John Wood, the state House District 65 incumbent who is seeking re-election, and Kelli Stargel, who is seeking re-election to the state House District 64 seat.

Randy Wilkinson, a Tea Party candidate for Congress, was scheduled to speak but was a no-show.

The candidates all stuck to the platforms they have been promoting on the campaign trail.

All candidates, regardless of party, were invited to the event, but some couldn’t make it because of their schedules, said Chris Neal, an assistant public affairs manager at State Farm.

Prior to Neal recognizing the candidates, State Farm Senior Vice President Jim Thompson warmed up the crowd when he talked about campaign advertisements.

“Is anybody else going to be happy when this is all over or is it just me?” Thompson asked. “I love all the ads. We understand it, and it’s an important part to being in office.”

In his address Scott joked about his mother, Esther, being featured in an ad and how he spent a lot of money making it.

Thompson went on to talk about the challenges facing State Farm, saying the company “was struggling.” State Farm officials announced last week they were conducting a review of the company’s operations that could result in local layoffs. The company employs 1,400 people in Winter Haven.

“We need politicians in Tallahassee who understand the issues of our business and make decisions about how this business is run,” Thompson said.

“This election is very important to all of us, so it’s important that we get involved. We need some reform on the property insurance side and we need a governor who’s going to have an interest in supporting some necessary reform.”

“We’ve got to get back to where people want to sell insurance in the state,” Scott said.

He said his plan calls for working on insurance fraud, sinkhole issues and regulatory reform, “so you can sell State Farm Insurance instead of Citizens Property Insurance,” a reference to the state-backed insurance fund.

While State Farm doesn’t endorse candidates, it encourages its employees to go to the polls, Neal said.

In a brief interview with The Ledger, Scott said he wasn’t worried about the negative ads against his campaign.

“We’re going to win because it’s (the election) about the jobs,” he said.

Thursday’s event was attended by Winter Haven chamber members and other elected officials, including Winter Haven City Commissioner Jamie Beckett and Auburndale City Commissioner Jack Myers.

Former County Commissioner Neil Combee, who helped arrange for Scott to visit McKeel Academy in Lakeland today, also was in attendance.

Beckett said Thursday’s event will help State Farm employees on Election Day.

“I think State Farm does a great service for its employees bringing the candidates into the workplace so they can be as informed as possible,” he said.

Find this article at:  http://www.theledger.com/article/20101014/NEWS/10145101/1078/YOURTOWN21?Title=Rick-Scott-Goes-Back-to-Roots-in-Visit-to-State-Farm-in-Winter-Haven