Charlie Crist Unveils Opening Day Agenda Focused on State Employees
Around the State
On Tuesday, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the leading candidate in next month’s Democratic primary to see who will challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November, unveiled five executive orders he would sign in his first day back in Tallahassee. But Crist’s opening day agenda, which is focused on state employees, quickly drew fire from Florida Republicans.
“The office of the governor has authority to take immediate steps to ensure the government of Florida is working for everyone,” Crist insisted on Tuesday. “That's why I intend to make Jan. 6th, 2015, the First Day of Fairness. I'll sign five executive orders that will make Florida a better place for all -- not just those at the top."
Crist promised to “reverse Rick Scott's closed records policies," follow a page from President Barack Obama’s gamebook by raising the minimum wage to "$10.10 for all contractors doing business with state agencies that report to the governor's office, send more state contracts to Florida businesses, support equal pay for women for state contractors" and “prohibit any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within the state agencies or its contractors.”
Despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican, including three statewide offices, Crist is a heavy favorite over former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich in next month’s primary.
Scott’s campaign pushed back against the new Democrat on Tuesday, reminding voters that the state unemployment rate rocketed up during Crist’s time in Tallahassee and comparing him to Obama.
"Charlie Crist thinks he can win this election by doing his best Barack Obama impersonation – all talk and no action,” said Florida Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. “And it’s telling that his new proposal includes no plans for job creation or education. Crist’s record speaks louder than any of his words: billions in tax hikes and double-digit tuition increases – as Florida was losing 832,000 jobs and 28,000 small businesses – was anything but ‘fair’ to the middle class.”
Even though Crist was the Republican nominee four times at the state level in his decades with the GOP, polls show the new Democrat is not making inroads with Scott’s base. Earlier this year, Crist released a memoir explaining why he left the GOP to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 with no party affiliation before shifting over to the Democrats after the presidential election in 2012, in which he claimed in the subtitle that the “extreme right hijacked the GOP.”
Despite that, Crist promised on Tuesday to work with Republicans if elected.
“I'll work with both parties to fight for our schools, expand health care, and invest in the middle class,” Crist insisted on Tuesday.
Thrasher joined up with the state legislative leadership Tuesday to weigh in against Crist’s proposal to use executive orders and, once again, compared the former governor to Obama. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, joined Thrasher in issuing a joint statement.
“Charlie Crist says he is a ‘man of the people’ but his actions don’t match his rhetoric,” the legislators said. “Crist is lifting a dangerous page from President Obama’s playbook, saying he will do an end-run around the people’s elected representatives and single-handedly mandate policies through executive order. Such declarations should give Floridians great concern.
“Charlie Crist is not above the constitution and the law,” the legislators added. “Florida needs a governor who will work with the Legislature and not force his personal agenda on Floridians with the stroke of a pen.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.