ST. PETERSBURG — With less than four weeks away from what could be one of the closest gubernatorial elections in Florida history, Governor Rick Scott paid a visit to the congregation of Bethel Community Baptist Church last Sunday. Just two weeks earlier, Charlie Crist had addressed Bethel in his second visit to the church.
“We are just proud to have our Governor with us this morning,” said Rev. Dr. Sykes, who gracefully exercised the right of non-partisanship by allowing both the democratic and republican candidates for governor to address his congregation.
Pastor Sykes posed the rhetorical question: “People who know you from the paper or news reports, they really don’t know you now do they,” asked Pastor Sykes.
The pastor saw Gov. Scott’s visit as an opportunity for the Bethel membership to get a firsthand view and insight into the man behind the political persona. The standing room only congregation stood as Gov. Scott approached the podium.
“I grew up in a Methodist church and my wife in a Baptist church,” said Gov. Scott in his opening remarks.
The governor shared that he and his wife got married in a Baptist church because that’s what his wife said to do and that’s how they have been able to stay married.
Gov. Scott shared the rules that his strong, single mother laid out for him to follow. “I was going to the Methodist church every Sunday, be an Eagle Scout, get straight A’s, or face a yard stick.”
The governor shared that he and his wife got married at 19 years old and have two daughters, 29 and 32 years old. “We’ve been blessed, God has blessed me,” said the grandfather of three boys.
“I’ve never forgotten my roots that Jesus Christ is my savior, so what I try to do today is help people get jobs. That’s what helped me find my way,” he said.
Gov. Scott grew up in public housing in Illinois, so his track in life epitomizes what happens to a highly driven man determined to pull himself up by the bootstraps and define and redefine his life’s mission.
He stated that the biggest thing he has been trying to do is to help people get jobs because that’s what helped him in his life. He shared that there are currently over 273,000 state jobs that need to be filled. He gave the name and number of the following person to contact if someone was in need of a job: Chris Hart at 850-410-2315.
“My hope is that we don’t go to the polls and decide that just because there’s a ‘D’ or a ‘R’ by the name that’s who I’m going to vote for…but get to know the person behind the letter first,” said Pastor Sykes, referring to the straight party line voting that has been commonplace in many African-American communities.
At the end of service, Gov. Scott greeted and took pictures with many members, young and old, from the Bethel Community church family. A lot of choices in this election could be made at the last minute as people replay what they have heard, what they have not heard and what may have been inferred by both Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Whatever choice you make, make sure the Civil Rights Movement was not in vain by exercising your right to vote on Tues., Nov. 4.