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Politics

Florida's Rock-'Em-Sock-'Em Governor's Race Isn't Waiting for Legislative Session to End

April 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

As the legislative session starts to wind down, the high-stakes gubernatorial race, already watched as one of the most competitive contests in the nation, is only just heating up.

Let's Get To Work, a group affiliated with Gov. Rick Scott, unveiled a new television ad Thursday, hitting former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political life with the GOP. The ad starts on Saturday and Lets Get to Work is putting $2 million behind the buy.

"When the state had record-high unemployment, skyrocketing foreclosure rates, and a loss of 832,000 jobs, Charlie Crist left to pursue his political career, said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. He chose to run away when Florida needed help the most. It was up to Gov. Rick Scott to step in and clean up the mess Crist left behind."

The new ad reviews Crists term as governor, insisting he led the state into economic disaster.

The numbers tell the story, the narrator of the ad says. "Floridas unemployment tripled. Eight-hundred thousand jobs gone. Property values down. Bankruptcies up. More foreclosures than any state. Government went deep in debt. State borrowing at an all-time high. Which governor took Florida to the bottom? Charlie Crist."

The ad also attacks Crist for not seeking a second term as governor, instead deciding to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. During the campaign, Crist abandoned the GOP after being caught in the polls by primary rival Marco Rubio. He continued to run with no party affiliation before joining the Democrats at the end of 2012.

Whats worse?" the narrator asks about Crist. He didnt stay to fix the mess. He ran away, tried to go to Washington instead. Charlie Crist. Slick politician, lousy governor.

But Crists team gave as good as they got on Thursday, firing away at Scott on Medicaid expansion.

This is just inhumane, Omar Khan, Crists campaign manager, insisted. The Florida Legislature has only a few more days to pass a bill and expand Medicaid to the 1 million working Floridians who need insurance. Rick Scott could force the issue and make it happen -- like he says he wants to. But instead, he's sitting on his hands, and Floridians are suffering as a result.

The numbers on this aren't complicated: 1.1 million Floridians are going without coverage because Scott rejected $51 billion in federal funds, Khan continued. That's 1.1 million people who might not be able to go to a doctor when they get sick or buy the prescription drugs they need, all because Rick Scott doesn't care enough to show some leadership.

It's outrageous, Khan concluded. Charlie will fight to expand Medicaid on Day One in office.

In the meantime, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich continues to call for a debate with primary rival Crist but, so far, the former Republican shows no sign of giving her one.

Rich has been making the rounds across the state, holding a fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, making media appearances in South Florida and appearing in Orange County on Tuesday night, insisting she will fight for Democratic values and claiming she doesnt have the baggage Crist does.

Turning to school choice, Rich looked to link Crist to Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush on the issue.

We were against vouchers and Crist pushed the largest expansion of vouchers at that time as governor, Rich said. Now Rick Scott is trying to continue what Crist did.

Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is also throwing jabs at Scott and Crist, insisting he was more fiscally conservative than the Republicans, promising freer markets, more competition, less taxes. Wyllie also is looking to appeal to Democrats by playing up his positions on social issues, including legalizing marijuana.

Wyllie is also looking to build up his party this week with events in Pasco and Pinellas counties and promoting the Libertarian state convention next month which features Judge Jim Gray who was former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnsons running mate on the Libertarian presidential ticket in 2012. Wyllie is also showcasing recently meeting former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who made two bids for the Republican presidential nomination and was the Libertarian presidential candidate back in 1988. Tweeting out a picture with Paul, Wyllie called it a great meeting and had great words of encouragement from Ron.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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