Florida Gubernatorial Candidates Go on the Attack After Session Ends

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 8, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

With the legislative session over, Florida’s gubernatorial race takes its place at the center of the political stage and the attacks are flying.

Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans across Florida took aim at former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political life as a Republican.

Scott’s team fired away at Crist on Thursday for raising taxes by $2.2 billion back in 2009, including raising unemployment insurance by $1,500 per worker.

“Charlie Crist has a track record of making bad situations worse for Floridians,” said Matt Moon, a spokesman for Scott. “Not only did he raise billions in taxes and fees on Florida families, he also hit job creators with a tax increase when the state was hemorrhaging jobs. Florida was already in a hole; Charlie Crist kept on digging, and ultimately ran away from the mess he made.”

Scott also got some help from a prominent Florida Republican currently in Washington. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., appeared on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on FOX News on Wednesday night to weigh in on Crist’s comments that he left the GOP due to Republicans opposing President Barack Obama due to his race. Despite starting as a major underdog, Rubio caught Crist in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in 2010, forcing the then-governor to leave the GOP and run with no party affiliation. At the end of 2012, Crist made another party switch and joined the Democrats.

“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” Rubio said about Crist’s party change. “Two points I would make. First of all, I’m even cautious to even dignify that with a serious response. My prediction is that by the end of this election even Democrats will be embarrassed that Charlie Crist became a Democrat. But I would say that if this is, in fact, how he felt at that time, why didn’t he say it? Why didn’t he say I’m not running as a Republican because I think the Republican Party has become what he accuses it of becoming? And why did he switch to Democrat, why didn’t he run as an independent? Why didn’t he do that at the time? Why did it take him four years to say what he’s saying? It’s just not a serious thing, that’s my second point. I have never met a single Republican activist involved in my campaign that has ever, in my opinion, ever been motivated by race to state their objections. I think it’s absurd and, quite frankly, it’s barely worthy of any sort of response, but because he’s running for governor of my state I guess I need to say what I’ve said.”

Asked if he thought Crist is a phony, Rubio left no room for doubt. “Absolutely,” Rubio said. “I believed that during the campaign, that’s one of the reasons why I ran for the U.S. Senate. I didn’t want my next U.S. senator to be someone like that who wouldn’t just be trustworthy in moments of importance to the country but who would embarrass us by saying these sorts of ridiculous things.”

But Crist fired back at Scott on Thursday on a range of issues including the environment and voter access.

“Climate change is real, it's man-made, and it's hurting our Florida,” Crist insisted on Thursday. “But Rick Scott refuses to face the facts and accept the science behind climate change. He won't admit we have a problem so he'll never work to find a solution.”

Crist also hit Scott on voting access, insisting the governor was standing in the way of early voting for students attending the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“Why doesn’t Rick Scott want University of Florida students to have easy access to the polls?” Crist demanded on Thursday. Crist urged Scott to "get out of the way and let the Gators cast their ballots.”

Crist wasn’t the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to fire away at Scott this week. Looking to catch Crist in the primary, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich threw some haymakers at Scott on Tuesday.

“Rick Scott says this session was a great success,” Rich informed supporters. “So what was your favorite part? A bill restricting women’s access to reproductive choice? Taking millions more out of public education and giving it to private, often religious schools? Failure to debate minimum wage and health care reform?

“No one can look at this session and say that our leaders did the right thing for Florida,” Rich added. “We need to change Tallahassee from the top down, which is what I’ll do as governor.”

But Rich also continued her calls for a debate with Crist, which he continues to ignore. Rich pointed to Maryland on Wednesday, noting the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls were debating that night and Florida Democrats should have the same chance. “Tonight in Maryland, two Democrats are having a primary debate in the race for governor,” Rich noted. “Florida voters deserve one too!”

In the meantime, Adrian Wyllie, the favorite for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, turned up the heat on Scott, insisting the governor backed Common Core.

“We have some news for Gov. Scott,” Wyllie insisted on Wednesday. “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards were defined as Common Core in SB 1076 which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in the 2013 session. Common Core was codified into law by Rick Scott and he either did not read the bill before signing it or he thought you would be fooled by changing the name of Common Core. Either way it is the wrong thing for our children.”

Wyllie added he is “the only candidate who understands that parents, teachers and the local community are the best educators of our children" as opposed to “government officials who think you don't know the difference.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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