Crist opponents question his political conversion in Florida governor's race
TALLAHASSEE — It sounds like something Republican Gov. Rick Scott would ask of Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist: “How can the people of Florida trust your recent conversion?”
But the words were Crist's, and the question was asked to Tom Gallagher during the 2006 Republican primary for governor. Crist easily won that race in large part because he accused Gallagher of shifting his politics to win the election.
“Talking about being a conservative after a political lifetime of liberalism just isn't believable,” Crist said of Gallagher.
Crist is the leading Democratic candidate for governor and is fielding the same accusations — in reverse — from Florida Republicans and his Democratic primary opponent, Nan Rich. They say Crist can't be trusted because of his political conversion from Republican to independent to Democrat.
“Charlie Crist is like Florida's weather. If you don't like his positions now, wait a little while and he'll change them,” former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush wrote in an email. “The man is organized purely around his own personal ambition. Nothing he says can be believed.”
Crist's reputation for being a say-anything-for-a-vote politician is not new. Gallagher accused him of it, as did Marco Rubio when he chased Crist from the 2010 Republican Senate primary.
Scott has joined in.
“It's hard to believe that someone can go from a Ronald Reagan Republican to a Barack Obama liberal in a short period of time. It's pretty dramatic,” Scott said.
Crist insists he has not changed, saying he was a moderate as a Republican and still is.
“What changed in the interim is my party's leadership,” Crist said, adding he “can't stomach” the intolerant views of his former party. “I always kind of felt, particularly on social issues, I was a round peg in a square hole.”
Some of Crist's changing positions include:
• Cuba: Crist criticized 2006 Democratic gubernatorial opponent Jim Davis for visiting Cuba on a congressional fact-finding trip, saying, “I know when it's time to visit Havana, and it's when it's free.” As an independent Senate candidate in 2010, Crist supported allowing Cuban-Americans' unrestricted travel to visit relatives in Cuba. This year, Crist said the United States should scrap its 52-year-old trade and travel embargo and announced plans for his own fact-finding trip.
• President Obama's health care overhaul: As a Republican Senate candidate in 2009, Crist said Obama's plan was “cockamamie” and “nuts” and demanded its repeal. As a 2010 independent Senate candidate, Crist said there were positive things about the law and it should be fixed, not repealed. As a 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, he says it's “great.”
• Obama's $787 billion federal stimulus package: In 2009, Crist asked Florida's congressional delegation to support the stimulus and appeared with Obama at a rally pushing for its passage. Later that year, he ran a radio ad criticizing Obama for the plan and told CNN, “I didn't endorse it.” He is defending his support of the plan, saying it saved jobs.
Crist opposed oil drilling off Florida's coasts when he ran for governor in 2006. In 2008, he said he was open to the idea when Republican presidential nominee John McCain called for more offshore drilling — Crist hoped to be his vice presidential pick. He changed his mind again after the 2010 BP oil spill.
Of course, Scott has flip-flops. After campaigning as a hard-liner on illegal immigration, Scott signed bills this year allowing the state Supreme Court to grant law licenses and in-state tuition to some Florida residents living in the United States illegally.
And last year, Scott stunned many when he supported expanding Medicaid under Obama's health care program. Before he got into politics, the former hospital chain founder spent millions of his money to fight the overhaul. The Republican-dominated Legislature rejected the Medicaid expansion.
A recent poll showed that most Floridians don't trust Crist or Scott.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy
- NFL notebook: Raiders name Sparano interim coach
- I-79 line painting begins Thursday
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- Shareholders cheer eBay’s decision to spin off PayPal
- Animal Friends receives $1.5 million state grant
- Virginia kicker says parents preached commitment
- Public station WQED cutting staff in face of financial woes
- Pirates notebook: Martin feels ‘pretty good,’ will start vs. Giants
- Pittsburgh rallies for second year of Pirates magic