Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist dug in on Thursday as they continued to exchange attacks in the increasingly combative Florida gubernatorial race.
Crist was scheduled to speak at the Council of 100s meeting in Orlando on Thursday morning but it was canceled at the last minute. Crist insisted Scott backers spiked the appearances and maintained the council was apparently afraid of the political ramifications of upsetting Rick Scott."
In his prepared remarks for the Council of 100, Crist went on the attack, hitting Scott on several fronts.
I am running for governor for one simple reason: Tallahassee is broken, and it is time to put the people back in charge, Crist said in the prepared speech. Quite simply, our state needs and deserves a governor who will wake up every day thinking about people like you, who will govern honestly and with the states collective best interests in mind, and who will make this economy more fair for hard-working business owners and taxpayers. And we need a governor who will refocus the state on things that are important to all Floridians: good schools, affordable health care, respect for our environment and dignity for our seniors.
Despite unemployment rocketing under his watch from 3.5 percent to more than 11 percent before declining under Scott, Crist attacked the Republican on the economy.
We have an economic plan led by Gov. Scott that consists of flying in his private plane to hold press conferences to tout job growth that he had literally nothing to do with, Crist said. It might be a good plan for getting re-elected, but its not a road map for long-term economic growth. And Floridas economy has suffered as a result.
Crist accused Scott of embracing the ideological fringes, taking care of his friends, bullying his opponents, hiding from the public and press and running from tough issues and who is trying to bully me by waving his $100 million checkbook and by running a daily smear campaign about my life and career.
The former governor attempted to explain away his recent party changes. Despite winning three statewide elections as a Republican, Crist left the GOP in 2010 after being caught by Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary. Continuing his Senate bid with no party affiliation, Crist placed a distant second to Rubio in the general election. After endorsing President Barack Obama for a second term, Crist joined the Democrats in December 2012.
We can go in a new direction that embraces common sense and optimism - and one that rejects the nasty tone of todays politics, Crist said. Yes, we can choose a direction that is inclusive, one where ideas trump money and power, one that says no one or no party has a monopoly on good ideas, and one that is willing to bring people together to find common-sense solutions to the problems we face.
We deserve a governor who will listen to his opponents, not demonize them, Crist added.
"Rick Scott, like this gang in Washington and here in Florida seem to think the only way to govern is from the fringes. That anyone who doesnt agree with them on everything is an enemy or worse yet, somehow less patriotic. That is why Washington is so dysfunctional and why state government here has lost its way. When the people give you the honor of being their governor you arent the governor of one party, youre the governor for all Floridians. No matter what they say, it is not a sin to reach across the aisle - it is your obligation.
So yes, I am running as a Democrat - proudly, Crist insisted despite making two party changes in the last four years. But to every independent and Republican who feels we are losing our way - please join us. We will not agree on everything - nor should we. But the principles that unite us as Americans and Floridians will always be more compelling than the issues that divide us. Rick Scott doesnt get that - but I know you do.
Speaking at Busch Gardens in Tampa to the media on tourism, Scott said he had nothing to do with the Council of 100 canceling Crists appearance. The Scott campaign also insisted they had nothing to do with the cancellation, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Canterasaid the same thing during a conference call with the media on Thursday morning.
I don't have any knowledge of anything like that happening," Lopez-Cantera said. "Charlie is all talk, so if he wants to talk, he's welcome to talk.
All he is is talk, talk, talk, Lopez-Cantera added. He can talk out of both sides of his mouth like he always does, and he's welcome to it."
Lopez-Cantera spoke with the media on Thursday to showcase a new website from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). The new site -- CutAndRunCrist.com -- had been run by the Florida Democratic Party but they let the rights expire, allowing the RPOF to come in and swoop it up. This is the third old Democratic website the RPOF has relaunched. The site features quotes attacking Crist from leading Democrats.
When Florida lost over 830,000 jobs and saw its unemployment rate triple, thanks to Charlie Crists failed leadership, he didnt stick around to help Florida families, Lopez-Cantera said. "Instead, he tried to run away to Washington. And when he did, Florida Democrats aggressively reminded voters that Charlie Crist was only out for himself. By relaunching this website, were happy to let Democrats make the case against the man theyve now embraced as their partys choice for governor.
We hope Charlie Crist speaks in every corner of the state, said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Scott campaign. "The more he speaks, the clearer it becomes that Crist is only focused on talk, while Rick Scott is focused on action. Crists record of failure is a great contrast with Gov. Scotts record of success.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.