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Florida governor booed out of restaurant over red tide algae issues
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was reportedly booed out of a restaurant as protesters vented their frustration over the state's red algae tide crisis.
Scott was making a campaign stop in Venice, Fla., when he was met with angry protesters outside of Mojo's Real Cuban restaurant on Monday, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. The governor, who is term-limited under Florida's Constitution, is currently in a tight race against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) for Nelson's seat.
He entered the restaurant but only stayed about 10 minutes before he left to a booing crowd.
His supporters held up campaign signs and chanted "Rick Scott" to drown out the protesters.
Florida has been hit by a widespread epidemic of toxic algae - also known as red tide - that is harmful to humans and kills thousands of fish. The phenomenon is common in the Gulf of Mexico, but scientists said that global warming has increased the size and location of the problem.
Protesters outside the restaurant reportedly chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, red tide Rick has got to go" and held signs that dubbed him "red tide Rick."
John Citara, a Sarasota resident, came to protest Scott wearing a white hazmat suit and gas mask. He told the newspaper that he and his sons go to the beach now to document the environmental crisis - not to swim.
"Once you wipe out the economy and the tourism, Florida's dead," Citara said. "If this doesn't show us we need to do things differently and hold people accountable, what will?"
Scott's critics told the newspaper that he is only exacerbating the problem.
Increased nutrient levels in water from leaking septic tanks or lawn fertilizer causes red tide blooms to develop, the Herald-Tribune noted.
Scott signed legislation that repealed mandatory septic tank inspections in 2012. As governor, he has also cut $700 million from the state's water management districts and reduced staffing at Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, the newspaper added.
Scott's spokesman, Chris Hartline, said the governor is "fighting to use all available resources" to fight back against red tide algae.
Scott declared a state of emergency in seven counties last month and directed $9 million in grant funding to help communities.
"While red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840′s, Gov. Scott is fighting to use all available resources to help impacted communities, including declaring a state of emergency and providing millions of dollars in grant funding to Southwest Florida counties for cleanup and recovery efforts," Hartline said, according to the Herald-Tribune.