TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott decided that using live alligators as fundraising bait wasnt such a great idea after all.
Without explanation, Scotts re-election campaign on Tuesday abruptly called off a planned private gator hunt in New Smyrna Beach on Oct. 18 for donors willing to pay $25,000 a head. The invitations said: Space is limited.
Word of the gubernatorial gator gambit quickly went viral on social media, and prompted questions about how the state would issue permits for it, not to mention the imagery of Scott campaign donors stalking a reptile that, despite its menacing image, has long been an unofficial symbol of Florida.
The event has been canceled, said John French, a Tallahassee lawyer who serves as chairman of Scotts campaign effort, known as Lets Get to Work. He declined to elaborate.
Scott was no help, either. At a Broward College event in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday to promote his call for tax cuts, he brushed off questions and told a reporter to call the Republican Party of Florida, which had no role in the event.
The gator hunt and its quick demise became was picked up by the Huffington Post, which reminded its readers of a Miami New Times article in 2011 in which Scott told state fish and game employees that he was not especially fond of alligators.
I dont want to be close to them that much, said Scott, who wears boots made in part from alligator skin. He added that he would be receptive to shooting one if it would promote the states image.
On Twitter, former Republican Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland questioned how Scotts campaign could put on such an event, with limits on the number of alligator permits in the state. This raises a few questions. Usually licenses/permits done by lottery. How do they get enough for all donors? Dockery tweeted.
Alligators are a federally protected species. State law limits Floridas alligator hunting season from Aug. 15 to Nov. 1, managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Alligators can only be captured by people with state permits, which are issued by a random drawing, to a maximum number of 5,000. (Thursday is the last day to apply for a permit this year.)
Each permit entitles a person to catch two gators. The permit costs $272 presumably no problem for someone willing to donate $25,000 to a political campaign.
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