Gloves Off in Governor's Race

By: Dara Kam News Service of Florida | Posted: January 30, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich came out swinging on Wednesday at the first event where all three gubernatorial candidates appeared in advance of the November election.

Scott used the release of his election-year budget proposal to take aim at his predecessor without calling out Crist by name, accusing his opponent of "raiding" state reserves while hiking taxes during Crist's four years as Republican governor.

"Over the last three years, we have cut taxes 24 times and now we are going to give another $500 million back to Florida families," Scott told editors and reporters at The Associated Press's annual legislative planning session. "Our tax record in these four budgets represents a sharp contrast to the four budgets before we took office. We have cut taxes dozens of times. But the previous four budgets raised taxes by over $2 billion."

Crist, who became a Democrat in late 2012, questioned Scott's ethics and slammed Scott for slashing education spending in his first two years on the job.

"Now he's trying to fool the people of Florida with an election-year transformation. I don't believe Florida's going to get fooled a second time," Crist said.

Rich, a former Senate minority leader, lumped both governors together and said that Scott's "bad" policies were rooted in those of his GOP predecessors Crist and Jeb Bush.

"While you will hear a lot of new promises … nothing tells you what a politician will do quite like what he or she has done. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have had their chance to lead. I believe they have failed," Rich said.

But Crist largely ignored Rich and instead slammed the incumbent, beginning with Scott's tenure as CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA. After Scott left the firm, it paid a record $1.7 billion in fines, fees and damages in a settlement for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The fraud occurred while Scott was CEO but he left the firm days after the feds raided company offices.

"Floridians need to be reminded who I'm running against. This is a guy who headed a company that ended up having to pay the largest fine for fraud in the history of the United States of America at the time. To me that is stunning … and unconscionable," Crist said. "I'm going to talk about it every day."

Crist said he would focus his campaign on "ethics, education, the environment and the economy," the same platform as his first bid for office when he ran for the state Senate in 1992.

Scott, meanwhile, contrasted his budget with repeated digs about what took place before he took office in 2011.

"Florida shed more than 800,000 jobs in the four years before I took office. Taxes increased, debt increased and the unemployment rate rose to 11.4 percent, all while hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. Florida was in a hole and for four years, there was just more digging," he said.

When Scott took office in 2011, economic development experts told him that "not only was Florida not competitive for big jobs projects, but we were often not even considered," he said. "Today -- that has all changed."

But Crist countered that he wants to "create good jobs" for Floridians.

"You do that by thinking big, not thinking small," he said.

Crist also appealed to his audience, editors and reporters often frustrated by Scott's unavailability or the governor's habit of staying on message when answering questions from the media.

"Four years ago you had a governor that liked to talk to you and liked to answer your questions. … I'll go to all your editorial boards. Now there's a difference," he said, referring to Scott's snubbing of editorial boards when he campaigned for governor in 2010.

Scott also boasted that his budget pays back money into state reserves Crist "raided," something Crist and the GOP-dominated Legislature used to plug billion-dollar gaps in the state budget during Florida's economic downturn.

"He raided the taxpayers. His company … had to pay a $1.7 billion fine for fraud. That's a raid," Crist told reporters before leaving the Capitol.

Rich portrayed herself as the lone candidate with a history of supporting abortion rights, gay marriage, gay adoption, an increase in the minimum wage and stronger gun regulations.

"It's pretty clear that Rick Scott doesn't share these values and frankly there aren't any other candidates that have the track record that I have … and yes, I'm referring to Charlie Crist," she said. "I stand on my record. I think he has rewritten his."

Crist shrugged off criticism from Rich for refusing to debate her, saying he is concentrating on defeating Scott.

"I don't know. I have all the respect in the world for Senator Rich. She's a wonderful person. She's a great Democrat. And she's a dear friend. I am focused on defeating Rick Scott. I've got to spend the energy doing what I need to do. It's a Herculean task. It's like David and Goliath financially, to tell you the truth. So I'm working every day to defeat Rick Scott because I want Floridians to be back in that mansion because if I win, they win. And if he wins, I think they lose," he said.



Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

William Dail
5:31PM JAN 30TH 2014
Adrian Wyllie was there to speak as well! This reporter must have been one of the ones who left the forum after Crist quit talking! Dara Kam should have stuck around! You missed the best story of the day on how the AP excluded Wyllie from the meeting, then reversed their decision after the public gave them an earful and allowed him to speak! You snooze, you lose!
12:31PM JAN 30TH 2014
Amazing how Adrian Wyllie, despite the media trying to exclude him pished past the media bull and took a stand against both these corrupt republicans. Now thr news media blatantly ignored his speech and his campaign all together. Fair and balanced and true and unbiased all need to go out the window with news today. Go Wyllie, FLORIDA STANDS WITH YOU. #w4g #takeastand
12:16PM JAN 30TH 2014
Exactly Karl...why is Adrian Wyllie not mentioned in this article? He is the only candidate that truly stands for personal liberty and economic growth. Florida loses if either one of these statist politicians wins in November.
12:07PM JAN 30TH 2014
Both Scott and Bondi lost my vote this November. Those that point the finger at Charlie Crist seem to forget that he opened the door for Marco Rubio and that is a real blessing. Maybe Mr. Rubio would have never been given the chance if it were not for Charlie Crist. Those that oppose Medical Marijuana claiming the 1936 & 1970 reasons will not get my vote, period. For the people.
pamela mcaloon
11:44AM JAN 30TH 2014
You are correct, Charlie, in your statement that Floridians will not be fooled for a second time. It is exactly the reason why they will not vote for you....
Karl Dickey
11:41AM JAN 30TH 2014
That's all well and good, however what did Adrian Wyllie have to say? He's the Libertarian Party candidate for Governor.

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