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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A sneak peek at the Crist for Senate platform

Education, the environment and lower property taxes will likely play a prominent role in Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for U.S. Senate. He sketched the contours of a platform following a news conference this morning about a military education initiative.

"I think, if I might, I hope it’s a reflection of what we’ve been able to do in Florida," Crist said unprompted amid questions of his candidacy. "We’re talking about education here today and I think what Florida has done in education has been extraordinary. When I got elected governor, we were ranked 31st in the country out of 50 states by Education Week. We’ve now moved into the top 10 in the country. I think that’s great. I think it’s because we’ve taken measure, we have accountability. I would give great credit to my predecessor in that regard, Gov. Bush.

"Also with the environmental issues we have faced. I hope that later this week we’ll have an opportunity to be able to celebrate the saving of the Everglades and a huge first step in doing so when the water management (district) takes its vote down in South Florida.

"And I also think that reducing taxes has been something that’s been very important. Right after I got elected, in the first session, we were able to pass the largest tax cut in the history of our state. And I think people appreciate that."

That's his take. See the jump for counterpoints.

Education: Rankings like Education Week's have always been ripe for criticism and the Top 10 ranking didn't generate many headlines. Polls show that Floridians are pessimistic about the education system overall. And the same Education Week story also gave Florida a grade C for school spending and noted problems with English-language learners. But campaigns are about bite-sized slogans and stats and a Top 10 crown will surely make its way into Crist's ads.

Democratic opponents will definitely challenge Crist on education.

Environment: Crist has pleased (mostly) the environmental community since taking office in January 2007. He scored points just last week when lawmakers passed a budget that spared the land buying program Florida Forever from near elimination. His biggest moment is yet to come -- the purchase of U.S. Sugar land near the Everglades. As Crist alluded to, officials expect to sign off on the deal this week. But it has been greatly downsized from what Crist originally pitched.

Crist has a lot to work with here and has made many environmental friends. But expect Democrats to highlight his flip-flop on offshore oil drilling while he was siding up to Sen. John McCain. Then this session, Crist seemed to go back to his original position by rejecting a House proposal for drilling, though it called for mining within 3 to 10 miles of beaches.

Taxes: Drop like a rock? Crist coined that slogan and maybe wishes he hadn't. Tens of billions in property tax cuts have been enacted under his watch but the effect on the average homeowner is debatable. If taxes dropped like a rock, then why did Crist work so hard to get another proposal on the 2010 ballot?

A toss-up. Taxes have dropped but do voters think so? Democrats could be in an awkward spot trying to attack Crist because they have generally argued that the cuts have damaged local governments and schools.
Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the Miami Republican challenging Crist for the nomination, also has said the tax cutting has not measured up.

Crist is most vulnerable on the economy but he did not mention that this morning.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 6:00pm]


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