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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist on forum, mum on Bobby Martinez's tax and attendance record



On Friday, Florida Realtors are assembling in Orlando for a meeting, and they've invited the U.S. Senate candidates to participate in a forum.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who steadily avoids mentioning opponent "Marco Rubio" by name, is skipping the forum just as he has skipped questions over when he'll debate the former Florida House speaker from West Miami.

At a Governor's Mansion event to highlight education successes, here's what Crist said when asked why he's skipping the candidate forum and whether he has a fundraiser instead:

"No, actually, what I’m doing is I’m speaking as governor to their meeting that morning, and I’m looking forward to it. As you know, real estate in Florida's so important, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet with so many great friends who are trying to get this economy going again.

"Just last February, the real estate market in the country was up 5.1 percent. That wasn’t the case in Florida. Florida was up, in terms of sales, 20 percent. So we’re pleased by that. I think the market has met the market place, and the numbers have come to a sane place, if you will, and real estate sales are starting to tick up. So I look forward to visiting with them again this week."

Lauding the real estate market is nothing new. Crist issued similar proclamations in May when he suggested he saw positive signs in the economy. (More here). Just today, we reported that from April '08-'09, Florida lost population (58,000 people) for the first time since 1946. Story here.

"It's such a dramatic shift from what we've seen in the past,'' said Stan Smith, the director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. "Florida's economy is, in a lot of ways, driven by population growth,'' he said. "Perhaps more importantly, population growth is a reflection of how the economy is doing both in Florida and in the nation.''

Meanwhile, the press is hounding Crist over his shortlisters to replace early retiring Sen. Mel Martinez. Crist is a bit mum, but flew off this morning to Miami to interview former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez. Some of Martinez's critics pointed out that he had one of the worst attendance records on the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission and that he had sponsored a so-called "tax swap" proposal asking voters to replace some property taxes with sales taxes. When Rubio proposed the same thing in 2007, Crist called it a tax increase.

Asked how that would weigh into his considerations, Crist said while walking away: "Everything weighs into my considerations."

What do you think about the attendance record? Crist closed the door to the SUV driving him to the airport.

Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:57pm]


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