Charlie Crist's Bad Week: Bill Nelson Hovers, Bill Hyers Leaves
Around the State
While he’s leading Rick Scott in the polls, this has been a rough week for Charlie Crist as he faced campaign team defections and Bill Nelson continues to loom over the gubernatorial race.
After guiding liberal Bill de Blasio to an upset victory in the Democratic New York City mayoral primary, Bill Hyers became one of the hottest Democratic campaign managers in the country. It was a big coup for Crist, a former Republican, to reel in Hyers to work as his campaign manager.
Other tensions could also be in the mix. Hyers is a true believer who worked for de Blasio, Barack Obama, Kirsten Gillibrand and other liberal candidates. Having spent most of his career as a pro-life, pro-gun rights Republican, Crist is clearly not the typical Hyers client, even as the new Democrat mildly expresses his support for same-sex marriage and other liberal causes.
Hyers’ quick exit underscores liberal Democrats’ continuing distrust with Crist. Despite being in the race for more than a year and a half now, Nan Rich is having a hard time winning over liberal voters to make a stand in the primary against Crist. But if Rich isn’t causing Crist to lose sleep, a bigger threat looms over the race.
Nelson continues to flirt with getting in the race, refusing to slam the door on jumping in. Having won elections in Florida for 40 years and being the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Florida, Nelson would destroy Crist in the primary. Nelson’s a much better bet to defeat Scott in the general election than Crist is. In a strange replay of what Lawton Chiles did to him in the 1990 gubernatorial race, Nelson could launch a last-minute bid against Crist. Democrats would be much more comfortable with Nelson’s record than Crist’s. They would also see Nelson having a much better chance to beat Scott, giving the Democrats their first gubernatorial victory since 1994.
Spending this week attacking Scott over voter access, Nelson is only adding to the speculation that he intends to run for governor. True, after 14 years in the U.S. Senate, Nelson is in line to become a major committee chairman after the 2014 elections. But it’s no sure bet Democrats keep the Senate in next year’s election. If Nelson decides the Republicans have a good shot at flipping the Senate, a gubernatorial bid makes sense.
With Hyers leaving the campaign and Nelson keeping his name in the mix, this hasn’t been a good week for Crist. After the holidays, the new Democrat will have a chance to get back on track when his new memoir comes out in early February and he will enjoy some good press. But weeks like this aren’t going to help Crist, especially as Nelson refuses to go away.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.