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Nancy Smith

Charlie Crist's Debate Refusal No Way to Hug Democrats

April 16, 2014 - 6:00pm

I'm not sure what is more ridiculous, the quid-pro-quoingest former governor of our time portraying our current governor as "evil," or the same former governor blustering dismissively past the lieutenant governor with a glib "give me Scott" remark -- as if he's spoiling for a debate.

I think I'll go with Charlie Crist's encounter with Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

The "evil" crack aimed at Gov. Rick Scott, made Monday during Crist's speech in Palm Beach County -- ``There's an old quote, `All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing,''' -- mark my words -- will come back to haunt Crist, swirling as he is in corruption allegations.

But Crist's encounter with the lieutenant governor should be addressed now.

Once again, he stepped right over his Democratic primary opponent, Nan Rich. As if she doesn't count. As if the primary is child's play and he's got the race won.

He told Lopez-Cantera he's ready to debate Scott. Not Rich -- never a mention of Rich.

Yet, more and more thinking Democrats are offended by Crist's dismissal of the invitations to debate the other candidate for the Democratic nomination. They don't care that she's behind in the polls, she's a viable candidate with a point of view they can relate to, and they want to size up Crist and Rich in a discussion of the issues.

"Nan was fighting for Democratic principles back when Charlie was keeping black prisoners slaving in chain gangs," said Miami-Dade County Democrat Alan Niedemeyer. "When she was fighting for a woman's right to choose and equal rights for gays and lesbians, Charlie was on the other side of the issue scoffing at everything she said.Now he's on her side, supposedly, and by ignoring her, he's still scoffing."

Niedemeyer's point of view is simple. "Many of us are taking this personally. When you skip over Nan, you're slapping Democrats in the face. I don't have to be a Rich supporter to realize she's a symbol of the best of our party. So, if Charlie can't go toe to toe with a party-line liberal in a primary debate, how am I going to know what he stands for?"

Oh, yes, and when Crist told the lieutenant governor to "give me Scott," Rich noticed. Her campaign immediately dispatched a responding email. "If I had a record as conservative as Crist, I wouldn't want a primary debate either," it read. "But this isn't about what Crist wants, or even what I want. Elections are about you, and who best represents your values and principles."

Two weeks ago the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee passed a resolution calling for a primary debate, and I'm also hearing the Broward County DEC is going to pass one at its next meeting. As time goes on, expect DECs in other counties to do the same.

I know Crist thought he pulled a pretty slick, thunder-stealing stunt atthe Forum Club of the Palm Beaches Monday. And it almost was. But when he improvised with the debate line, all he did was call attention to the fact he knows he can't climb on a stage with principled Democrat Nan Rich -- liberal all her life -- and win. His flip-flops, flaws and failures would be on devastating display.

Crist would have to commit himself on the record to who-knows-how-many things, with millions of Floridians watching -- a situation he worked hard to avoid even as a Republican. He knows he's much better working small groups where he can promise one thing to one and something else to another.

All Crist did on Monday is remind the lieutenant governor, former state Sen. Nan Rich and millions of Floridians that Rick Scott found the nerve to debate Bill McCollum in his 2010 primary, but he can't.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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nancy smith



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