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Politics

Gubernatorial Candidates Take Off the Gloves

April 21, 2014 - 6:00pm
Even with Floridians attention focused on the Legislatures final days of the session and the battle for an open congressional seat in Southwest Florida, the leading gubernatorial candidates continue to battle and maneuver for position as November looms.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, spoke to Capital Tiger Bay and called on the Legislature to pass bills giving in-state tuition benefits to the children of undocumented aliens. Scott has called upon the Legislature to pass the bill though Crist had opposed similar legislation earlier in his career.

Crist also insisted he was the underdog in the race, even as he continues to refuse to debate or acknowledge former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich. I am running against 100 million dollars, Crist insisted on Tuesday before ignoring Rich who is trying to debate the newly minted Democrat. Nobody else is really doing it but me.

Noting that Crist had opposed in-state tuition for illegals back in 2006, Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), came out swinging at the former governor on Tuesday.

Charlies extraordinary lack of self-awareness is something for the record books, Curry said. He has a world-class knack for distorting the truth, running away from his record and saying whatever is convenient for his own personal benefit. He opposed in-state tuition while he was running for governor.

Scott's campaign also swung away at Crist on the matter.

"Charlie Crist has no moral authority or credibility on higher education, said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Scott campaign, on Tuesday. Not only did he oppose in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants when he last ran for governor; he raised the price of a college education on Florida families, signing legislation that allowed tuition to increase by an additional 15 percent each year. Gov. Scott is fighting to right Charlie Crist's wrongs this legislative session, so that students who have spent their childhood here in Florida can get an affordable education."

Despite drawing fire from the RPOF and Scotts team, Crist attempted to rally Democrats behind him on Tuesday.

I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure our volunteers have every resource under the sun, Crist informed supporters as he pointed toward opening his first campaign office over the Easter weekend. The incredible energy on Saturday showed me how hungry the people are for change. And that hunger is going to take us over the top on Nov. 4th."

While Crist looked to reel in Democrats, Scotts team has been concentrating on Hispanic outreach this week. Lets Get to Work, a group affiliated with Scott, is launching a new television commercial in Spanish titled "Opportunity."

The ad was unveiled on Monday and will begin airing in Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando and Tampa starting Wednesday. Lets Get to Work is spending $500,000 to air the ad, which focuses on Scotts personal story.

I have met many good people who serve in elected office, but I have never seen anyone with as much focus and determination as Gov. Scott, said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Monday. His story is one that all Floridians can relate to: working hard through difficult circumstances to live the American dream. When it comes to making Florida the No. 1 place to create jobs and educate our children, Gov. Scotts life experience drives him every day.

The Scott team doubled down on their Hispanic outreach on Tuesday as they unveiled a website in Spanish. The website, rickscottporlaflorida.com, went live Tuesday.

We are making an historic effort to reach all communities and share Gov. Scotts message of economic growth and opportunity for all Floridians, said Lopez-Cantera. Gov. Scott is working hard to make sure that Florida will continue to be the best state in the country to find a good job, educate our children, and give our families every opportunity to succeed.

In the meantime, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie weighed in on SB 1714, a bill impacting microbreweries in Florida and took off the gloves to go after Scott.

Growing up in Dunedin, in Pinellas County, I have seen firsthand how this growing industry helps the local economies, Wyllie noted about craft brewers. This industry cannot be regulated away because of large campaign donations from the Big Beer industry.

Rick Scott has taken $12,000 in donations and another $50,000 in his Let's Get to Work PAC, Wyllie added. The Republican Party of Florida has received more than $280,000 in just one election cycle from the people who would benefit most from this new law, namely, large distributors and brewers like Anheuser Busch."

Wyllie ripped into corporate payoffs for regulations that destroy small business.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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