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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Campaign themes emerge at Reagan Dinner

Saturday's annual Reagan Dinner put on by Pasco Republicans offered Democrats a chance to protest -- and a handful showed up outside the event at the Spartan Manor in New Port Richey to deride featured speaker Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

But the event also offered the GOP a chance to get in a few licks against their rivals. In particular, Democrat Charlie Crist ended up the punch line in a few jokes, as well as the target of more substanative campaign-trail jibes.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera ascended the stage after Bondi and quickly offered a glimpse into some of the stalwart Republican themes likely to emerge -- and re-emerge -- as Gov. Rick Scott hits the campaign trail this summer:

Namely, Scott's record versus his opponent's on the economy, government spending and unemployment.

For example, under Crist, Florida's government had a $3.6 billion deficit in 2010. Under Scott, the government this year posted a $1.2 billion surplus.

Then Lopez-Cantera drew a comparison between Crist, then a Republican, and Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

During the recession when unemployment surged nationwide, the jobless rate in Texas never climbed higher than 8.3 percent. But under Crist's tenure in the governor's mansion, the rate hit a staggering 11.3 percent, he said.

Now, the jobless rate is at about 6.2 percent.

"Fiscally conservative principles. That's what this governor stands for," Lopez-Cantera Scott said of Scott, drawing raucus applause. "They work, and he's proving it."

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 1:04pm]


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