In a Gainesville Starbucks yesterday, former Lake Worth commissioner, activist, and all-around straight talker Cara Jennings took on Gov. Rick Scott.
"You are an asshole, Rick Scott," she said as Scott bared an uncomfortable smile. "Rich people like you don't know what to do when poor people like us need health services. You cut us. Shame on you. You are an embarrassment."
Jennings, age 39, said this morning that she had just sat down in the Starbucks around 5 p.m. when the governor and his entourage walked in. She was preparing to do some freelance work and hadn't even ordered her coffee. The encounter began in civil fashion when she questioned a recent bill he had signed that limited access to women's heath care and abortion.
Then she said — because she and her 2 1/2-year-old child fall into a gap whereby they don't qualify for Obamacare or Medicaid — that Scott doesn't understand some people's plight.
"He said, 'Go to the county health clinic,'" she recalled. "That was insulting. Things escalated from there."
Jennings was a Lake Worth commissioner for five years, from 2006 to 2011. She has also been an activist for immigrant rights. The meeting in the Starbucks was ironic, she says, because for months she had been back and forth from Lake Worth to Tallahassee trying to meet with the governor over bills that had hurt arrivals from other countries.
"We made the eight-hour drive again and again," she says. "But they wouldn't see us."
Asked what drove her to take on the governor, she responded: "The better question is: Why don't more people stand up to politicians like Rick Scott who make horrible decisions. I implore my fellow Floridians to do the same when they see Rick Scott."
When Scott left, she turned around and discovered a clean-cut guy sitting behind her had filmed the whole thing. Then she walked to the counter and ordered her drink. It was a decaf latte.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.