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Easter Week's Been Busy in Florida Governor's Race

April 16, 2014 - 6:00pm

As Florida pauses to celebrate Passover this week and Easter this weekend, the leading gubernatorial candidates arent taking a break, working to reach out to voters and fortify their base. Here's a roundup of what they've been up to:

Starting Saturday, Lets Get to Work, a political group with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, will run a new television commercial across Florida. The ad ignores Scotts opponents and instead offers biographical details, including the governors years in the Navy and going to college on the GI Bill. This marks the second ad released in recent weeks that focuses on Scotts rise from poverty.

The ad buy cost around $2 million.

"Gov. Scotts humble beginnings are reflected in his determined focus to create more jobs and invest in education for all Floridians," said Florida Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the chairman of Scotts re-election efforts. "His own life story directly relates to the pursuit of the American dream, a journey which continues to set Florida apart as a leader in job creation throughout the country.

The commercial hasn't been the only effort this week focused on reintroducing Scott to Florida. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) showcased Scott in its latest American Comeback video released on Tuesday.

While Scott looked to score points with voters by highlighting his personal story, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, focused on a pivotal county in South Florida.

Crist will be opening his first campaign office in Broward County on Saturday. Former state CFO Alex Sink built up a 130,000-vote margin of victory over Scott in Broward back in 2010, taking 64.5 percent of the vote. But Crist also did well in Broward when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 with no party affiliation, winning the county with 36 percent while Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek took 32 percent apiece.

Our strategy is pretty simple, Crist emailed supporters Thursday. He insisted his campaign would rely on person-to-person organizing powered by grassroots supporters.

The office we're opening on Saturday will be the center of this critical work in Broward County, Crist said. I want to open offices like this all across the great state of Florida.

Crist also threw a jab at Scott.

Have you ever met someone willing to spend a Saturday knocking on a few doors for Rick Scott? Crist asked. I haven't, either.

The energy is out there -- I see it everywhere I travel, Crist insisted. We've got the right vision for Florida, and we're going to talk to as many voters as we can to make sure everyone knows it."

But Crist suffered another campaign defection on Thursday. Eric Conrad, who had been on President Barack Obamas Florida campaign team in 2012 and was announced as Crists spokesman a week ago, left to pursue other opportunities. Conrad is not the first Democratic activist to leave the Crist team after a short period. Bill Hyers, a prominent strategist best known for leading Bill de Blasio to victory in last years New York City mayoral race, left the Crist team after around a month at the end of last year.

In the meantime, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is turning up the heat on Crist as they continue to battle for their partys nomination to challenge Scott in November.

Rich pointed to an encounter earlier this week between Crist and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera in which the former governor called for a debate with Scott. Noting that Crist continues to refuse to debate her, Rich demanded her shot first. Scott seemed to agree with her, telling the media on Tuesday that Crist should debate Rich and win the Democratic nomination first.

A little arrogance? Rich demanded on Tuesday. Crist tells Lopez-Cantera he's got to debate the lieutenant governor candidate then says Give me Scott! Why is he afraid to debate me?

Rich is running a petition for Crist to debate her.

On the third-party front, Adrian Wyllie, the favorite to win the Libertarian nomination, is ramping up his campaign with a series of campaign events this week including hitting Jacksonville and Melbourne. The Wyllie campaign held a statewide sign-waving event last week.

Wyllie turned to '70s rockers Stealers Wheel to throw jabs at Scott and Crist this week, referencing the classic rock song Stuck in the Middle in his latest attack. The Wyllie team is running an image featuring their candidate in the middle while the Democratic donkey goes left and the Republican elephant goes right. Clowns to the left and jokers to the right," reads the image, paying homage to the band's hit song.

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