The Florida gubernatorial race is off with a bang this week, as former Gov. Charlie Crist went on the attack and Gov. Rick Scott put his campaign team in place.
Crist, front-runner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott, headed to Tallahassee Thursday, ramping up the attacks on his Republican opponent. The newly minted Democrat, who joined the party at the end of 2012 after spending most of his career with the GOP, was in the capital to raise money.
Before the fundraiser, Crist spoke with the media and turned up the heat on Scott.Im running for governor to try to serve you again because Im disappointed, Crist said. My heart is broken for educators, for people who care about the environment, for the middle class and the economy and the greater job opportunities we should be having in the Sunshine State.
Crist attempted to contrast his record with Scotts on Thursday. "He's got his record and I've got mine," Crist said. The new Democrat promised to ramp up attacks on Scotts record in the private sector, including the governors time at Columbia/HCA and his role in the largest fraud settlement in American history in which the company lost around $2 billion.
"When Governor Scott ran before, it was mentioned, Crist said. Maybe not enough.
Crist also defended his economic record and backing President Barack Obamas federal stimulus plan when he met the media. Asked what Scott policies he would reverse, Crist said, All of them.
I would change everything he is doing and get Florida back on track, Crist said, pointing to Scotts record on high-speed rail, the environment, education and voter rights.
Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), quickly fired back.
When Charlie Crist says that he would reverse everything Rick Scott has done, does that include his five major tax cuts in the last three legislative sessions?" Hepworth asked. Does it include the record state-based funding for K-12 schools and $480 million in teacher pay raises? Does it include the 2,800 regulations slashed for job creators and the reduction of $3.6 billion in state debt? Charlie Crist has made it clear that Floridians cant afford another four years of his failed leadership.
In the meantime, Scott announced his campaign team on Friday morning. Florida Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and one-time speaker of the Florida House, will be Scotts campaign chairman. South Florida businessman Mike Fernandez, currently the chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners based in Coral Gables, and Darlene Jordan, a former assistant attorney general of Massachusetts who co-chaired Mitt Romneys finance team for his 2008 presidential bid, will co-chair Scotts finance efforts.
"I want to thank Senator Thrasher for agreeing to be chairman of my re-election campaign," said Scott on Friday. "He has been a trusted adviser throughout my first term, and will be a key supporter in my campaign for a second term. I also want to thank my close friends, Mike Fernandez and Darlene Jordan, for leading the effort in gathering the resources necessary for a successful re-election."
Scott also announced Melissa Sellers will be moving from communications director of his office to become his campaign manager. Tim Saler, who has worked for the GOP in several states, is giving up his post as deputy executive director for political strategy at the RPOF to become Scotts deputy campaign manager. Matt Moon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., will be switching hats as well, moving from communications director of the RPOF to the same position in the Scott campaign.
"We've made much progress over the past three years, but there is so much more to be done, and I will keep my eyes focused on Florida's future, Scott said on Friday. This campaign will be about how we continue and even accelerate job creation so that every Floridian has the opportunity to prosper. I have full confidence in Melissa leading this campaign; she will do an excellent job. I'm also proud to have two enormously talented individuals in Tim and Matt joining my team. I'm confident they will effectively communicate my vision for an opportunity economy in the Sunshine State "
The RPOF quickly moved to replace Saler and Moon. Hepworth, who also worked for Romney, will take Moons place as communications director for the RPOF while George Riley, a veteran of Tampa Bay and Central Florida politics, will become political director.
"As we prepare to re-elect Governor Rick Scott, I am confident that Susan and George, along with the rest of the RPOF team, will lead a stellar effort to effectively communicate our message, target and turn out voters, and support all Republicans in 2014, said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, on Friday. They will do a great job ensuring victory for Governor Scott, our Cabinet, and our Legislature."
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.