Obama Takes Center Stage in Florida Governor's Race
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott and his chief challenger served notice this weekend that President Barack Obama would be front and center in this year’s Florida gubernatorial race.
Scott’s campaign team weighed in on Obama vacationing in Florida over the weekend and former Gov. Charlie Crist appearing in Washington to speak at the annual Gridiron Club dinner. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November.
But Crist showed no signs of backing down on his association with Obama. Appearing at Coral Reef Senior High in Miami on Friday, Obama gave Crist a shout out along with other Florida Democrats.
“I want to mention a few other folks who are here who are fighting on behalf of the people of South Florida every day,” Obama told the crowd. “We’ve got Congressman Joe Garcia here. We’ve got Congresswoman Frederica Wilson here. We’ve got Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Your former Gov. Charlie Crist is here.”
For his part, as he tries to win over members of his new party, Crist looked to showcase his appearance with Obama.
“I had the privilege of joining President Obama in Miami to discuss the importance of investing in education,” Crist informed supporters on Saturday. “As the president told the students at Coral Reef Senior High School, ‘We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success.’ I couldn't agree more.”
Crist went after Scott’s record on education, calling it “abysmal” and insisting the governor had November on his mind when it came to crafting a budget and backing teacher pay raises.
“In his first budget, Gov. Scott proposed cutting school funding by $3.3 billion,” Crist insisted. “That is what Rick Scott wanted to cut from schools. But now that it's an election year, he wants students, parents, and teachers to believe he's changed his position. We won't be fooled again.”
Crist also showcased his support of Obama’s federal stimulus. That decision hurt Crist badly as he sought the Republican nomination in the 2010 U.S. Senate race. After being caught by Marco Rubio in the primary, Crist continued his bid with no party affiliation placing a distant second behind the Republican in the general election.
“When I was governor, Florida had its highest-ever rate of spending per-pupil -- and when the recession hit, I decided to accept federal Recovery Act funds to stand up for our future leaders during the global economic meltdown,” Crist insisted. “Rick Scott likes to criticize that decision. My question for Gov. Scott is simple: Which 20,000 teachers would you have fired had you been governor and not accepted those funds?
“As I said when I announced, when I am governor we want Florida schools to be in the top 10 percent in the world in reading and math by 2020,” Crist added. “But we only get there if we have a governor willing to invest in education every year -- not just an election year. I will wake up every day thinking about how to make our schools better. Because, frankly, there is nothing more important to the future of our state.”
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) looked to showcase Crist’s support of Obama’s health-care law. Crist appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley on Sunday in which he praised the law and said he expected it to grow more popular over time.
"At the end of the day, this is going to be a very popular program because it's doing the right thing for the people of our country and my state," Crist insisted. "The president is a smart guy and he's doing the right thing."
“You think that nothing about Obamacare has irreparably harmed Floridians in any way?” Crowley asked.
“No, I don’t think so at all," Crist replied. “I think it’s been great.”
“We think it’s great someone finally pressed Charlie on why he supports a law that hurts the very people he claims to care about,” insisted Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the RPOF, on Monday.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.