Rick Scott and Charlie Crist Get Ready to Rumble

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: January 17, 2014 11:30 AM
Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

Charlie Crist and Rick Scott

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. “I’m running for governor to try to serve you again because I’m 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 Scott’s on Thursday. "He's got his record and I've got mine," Crist said. The new Democrat promised to ramp up attacks on Scott’s record in the private sector, including the governor’s 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 Obama’s 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 Scott’s 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 can’t 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 Scott’s 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 Romney’s finance team for his 2008 presidential bid, will co-chair Scott’s 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 Scott’s 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 Moon’s 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 kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (9)

Bob Sell
9:14PM JAN 22ND 2014
I consider myself a constitutional conservative and voted for Rick Scott last time. With his veto of alimony reform and shared parenting, I now see that Governor Scott is a right wing ideologue who governs based on his own personal biases. Rest assured, I won't be voting for Mr. Scott a 2nd time. If he is the face of conservatism in Florida, please count me out.
T. D. R.
11:30AM JAN 19TH 2014
Sorry Charlie !!!!! Not getting my vote. You finally had the guts to show your true liberal colors.
T. D. R.
11:30AM JAN 19TH 2014
Sorry Charlie !!!!! Not getting my vote. You finally had the guts to show your true liberal colors.
Independent Thinker
11:47AM JAN 19TH 2014
How nice. So you'd rather vote for a monster that cut funds to rape crisis centers? Or will you at least have the kindness and decency towards your fellow Floridians to either stay home, or vote third party?
Independent Thinker
10:07AM JAN 18TH 2014
How hilarious. Five major tax cuts in the last three legislative sessions? The Republican Legislature under Crist was much the same as the one now, yet it signed off on tax increses and didn't cut any. Record state-based funding for K-12 schools and $480 million in teacher pay raises? Wasn't that a reversal of Scott's own enormous cuts to education and state worker pay (via a false claim of needing to shore up the pension fund)? 2,800 regulations slashed for job creators? Um, sure. Let's have a list of those regulations, and evidence of how and why each and every one stopped job creation, and were doing no good otherwise, please. It's time to stop throwing around big numbers to impress those who know no better. Reduction of $3.6 billion in state debt? Gee, wait a minute -- they used to say $5.2 billion. And the state still has $20 billion in debt outstanding anyway. The debt goes up and down as part of a normal funding cycle.

These guys must think Florida's voters have cement in their heads.
11:01PM JAN 17TH 2014
All the supposed tax breaks and hush money to the Florida teachers want amount a bit from me. I'm a Florida participant in the Florida Retirement System and Rick Scott has done everything he can to break that retirement system. It's been solid for 40 years until this guy came along.
6:46PM JAN 17TH 2014
Right davef Charlie Crist is going to save the day! Big Deal!
3:07PM JAN 17TH 2014
I hope Charlie Crist makes Rick Scott answer questions. Mr Scott has a bad habit...namely walking away when asked a question he does not like.
Independent Thinker
10:09AM JAN 18TH 2014
Good luck on that. Scott chickened out on debates with Bill McCollum when it got too hot for him. But not answering Crist's questions (or anyone else's) will speak for itself, too.

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