Gubernatorial-Race Attacks Turn to South Florida
Around the State
Even though the Legislature took a week off for Passover and Easter, the Florida gubernatorial campaign showed no signs of slowing down on Monday as the various candidates exchanged fire.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott despite spending most of his political year in the Republican ranks, spoke at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches on Monday. Scott’s new running mate, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, was in attendance to keep tabs on Crist.
Despite Lopez-Canter being there, Crist had kind words for him, calling him a “friend." "I know he has a good heart,” Crist said.
Crist offered his take on why he was seeking a political comeback after foregoing running for a second term in 2010, and instead opting to run for the U.S. Senate. Bringing up conservative statesman Edmund Burke’s contention that all that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing, Crist said he had major problems with the way Scott was running the state.
The new Democrat also looked to get his liberal credentials in order as he looked to win over voters in his new party, jabbing Scott for his attack ads against then-state CFO Alex Sink in the 2010 gubernatorial contest and defending President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
“I'm the guy who says Obamacare is great because it is,” Crist said on Monday.
"I feel like I'm watching a bad political movie,” said Lopez-Cantera in response to Crist’s speech. “Charlie has become the unpleasant stereotype of a politician willing to say anything, do anything to further ambitions. When the state was in really bad shape, he didn't care about leadership. He left to pursue his own ambition.”
Crist’s South Florida ties were on center stage on Monday as the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) hit the former governor on playing up the populist theme despite his personal wealth.
“Last week during a visit to Tallahassee, Charlie Crist announced that ‘as a symbolic gesture intended to show his commitment to ensure a high voter turnout in Broward’ he would be renting a third home in Fort Lauderdale Beach,” Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the RPOF, emailed the media on Monday. “He’s already got places in St. Petersburg and the uber-exclusive Fisher Island in Miami.
“But just three weeks ago Crist told CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede ‘I have lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life.' Was he telling the truth?” Hepworth continued. “No ... all this begs the question: Will Charlie ‘I have lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life’ Crist also be scooping up homes No. 4 and 5 in Orange and Duval counties as a ‘symbolic gesture’ of his commitment to getting votes? Charlie, you claim to live paycheck to paycheck, so tell us how much it is.”
Crist clearly has South Florida on his mind. On Monday, Jared Mueller, the Crist campaign’s director of budget and operations, sent out an email to supporters that they would be opening their first field office on Saturday and it will be in Broward County. Crist has also been able to rely on the help of a South Florida Democrat with national standing who has been ramping up the attacks on Scott.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has become increasingly vocal in attacking Scott.
“Nearly 60 percent of Floridians support Medicaid expansion, yet Rick Scott and the Republicans in Tallahassee have their heads in the sand,” Wasserman Schultz insisted last week.
On Sunday, Wasserman Schultz maintained, “This gubernatorial election is about Rick Scott's failures" and accused of him of wanting to “change the conversation.”
Asked by Sunshine State News about Wasserman Schultz's increased role for Crist, Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Scott campaign, ignored the congresswoman and kept his fire focused on Crist.
"As governor, Charlie Crist ushered in a record-setting economic collapse as over 830,000 Floridians lost their jobs,” Blair said on Monday. “Unemployment tripled, housing prices plummeted, and the state’s debt skyrocketed. Now Crist is embracing Obamacare, a disastrous law that has resulted in cancelled health coverage, higher costs, and uncertainty for Florida families. If Crist’s failed record as governor didn’t already disqualify him for another term, his support for Obamacare certainly does."
Another South Florida Democrat is also turning up the heat as she looks to catch Crist in the primary. The team behind former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is trying a new tactic as they look to gain ground: Florida Supreme Court nominees. On Monday, the Rich team hit Crist for naming conservatives to the Florida Supreme Court.
“Charlie Crist's legacy to Florida is Ricky Polston and Charles Canady -- the two most conservative justices on the Florida Supreme Court,” the Rich camp insisted. “Can we trust him with that power again? The next governor of Florida will appoint four of seven Supreme Court justices. Nan Rich will appoint fair and impartial judges and justices who are dedicated to equal protection under the law.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.