Crist the Independent
After weeks of intense speculation, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced today in St. Petersburg that he will be running for the U.S. Senate seat as an Independent. Originally slated to run in the Republican primary race, Crist had been trailing his opponent, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, by as many as 20 points in some polls. Recently, there had been signs that Crist would leave the primary and run as an independent after he vetoed two popular pieces of legislation supported by Florida Republican leadership. A veteran of Florida politics, Crist is in his first term as governor.
As a Florida resident and public school teacher, I voted for Governor Crist when he ran for that office in 2006. I reside in St. Petersburg, which happens to be Charlie Crist’s hometown, so I did have above average exposure to the governor. Charlie Crist has always been a moderate Republican, which appealed to my independent side. He has an ability to connect with the average Floridian through his meek disposition and pragmatic approach to governing. What appealed to me the most about Gov. Crist was his contemplative and team-oriented approach to solving some of our states problems. He has never been one to strong-arm constituents and seems to be very sensitive to the issues that are important to the people of Florida.
Unfortunately for Crist, he is serving as governor during a time of economic recession that has greatly affected Florida. Floridians have endured record unemployment, a major housing market decline, and serious budget concerns. This reality, coupled with the discontent in Republican circles with political incumbents in general, has factored into the meteoric rise of Crists opponent, Marco Rubio.
Crist is willing to take risks if he feels that they will benefit the state. Some of these risks have put him at odds with the Republican Party. One recent example of this is his veto of Senate Bill 6, which was pushed through our state legislature along strict party lines and to the vast objection of the people of Florida. The Republican leadership went as far as to prevent any amendments from being added during the floor debate, even though they conceded that the bill was flawed. Essentially, Senate bill 6 would have stripped new Florida teachers of due process, discontinued the common educational practice of counting degrees and experience in determining teacher compensation, and tied over 50% of a teacher pay and annual evaluation to standardized test results. The son of a former school board member and the brother of two sisters who serve in education, Crist took seven days to tour the state, meeting with stakeholders and constituents. Going against his own party, Crist vetoed the controversial bill, ultimately killing it. Another example of how Gov. Crist opposed the Republican Party for the good of the people of Florida was his acceptance of federal stimulus money from the Obama administration. Even though Crist was the recipient of heavy criticism from within the conservative ranks, this money was used to save thousands of jobs within the state of Florida. Ironically, the same Republican-led legislature that criticized Crist, tailored Senate Bill 6 around their expressed desire to position the state to receive federal Race to the Top grant money from the Obama administration.
The Final Verdict
When all is said and done, I do believe that Charlie Crist will narrowly win the U.S. Senate race. In a three person race, Crists broad appeal, visibility as governor, and veteran experience in the political trenches of Florida wills serve him well. If ever there was a candidate who was tailored made for an independent run in Florida, Charlie Crist is that man. This is why he can count on my vote in November.
Crist Education Veto Angers GOP, Shakes Up Florida Senate Race: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/04/16/crist-education-veto-angers-gop-shakes-up-florida-senate-race?icid=sphere_tribune_sunsentinel_inline
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Miami Herald on Senate Bill 6
Justnews.Com Crist Biography