Crist on Scott's record: In six months, 'the nightmare will be over'
Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist, speaking Tuesday to a packed house at the Capital Tiger Bay Club, called Gov. Rick Scott "a disaster" who's "essentially pleading the fifth" every time he dodges a question.
In a lunchtime talk to a predominantly Democratic crowd at the Tallahassee Civic Center, Crist blistered every aspect of Scott's record. But he spoke mostly about the record fine for fraud paid by Columbia/HCA, the hospital chain Scott used to run. As Crist spoke the dollar amount of the fine slowly for maximum emphasis -- "one point seven billion" -- the microphone popped as he said the letter B.
"He stole from people, his company did, a ton, and he's a very wealthy man," Crist said. "Well, okay, I've got my record and you've got yours on ethics ... We're good. He's not."
Crist criticized Scott for rejecting federal high speed rail money, for not demanding that the Legislature expand Medicaid, for proposing a $3.3 billion cut in education in his first year in office and for supporting a $300 million cut to state universities in his second year. The crowd applauded when Crist said that "I'm a Democrat, and I'm ahead in every poll that's legit."
"We've got six months to go and the nightmare will be over," Crist told the crowd, "and you'll have somebody up there with a heart again."
Crist called on the Legislature to pass a bill (SB 1400) granting in-state college tuition to undocumented students, calling it "the right thing to do." Scott's campaign noted that as a Republican candidate for governor in 2006, Crist opposed in-state tuition for undocumenteds. "Charlie Crist has no moral authority or credibility on higher education," the Scott camp said. "Not only did he oppose in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants when he last ran for governor; he raised the price of a college education on Florida families, signing legislation that allowed tuition to increase by an additional 15 percent each year. Governor Scott is fighting to right Charlie Crist's wrongs this legislative session."
Crist did not address his past opposition to in-state tuition, but he defended his past support for the 15 percent tuition differential at universities. "They asked," he told reporters. "They wanted some help ... It was the right thing to do."
After his talk, Crist signed more than a dozen copies of his book that guests brought to the event. Among them: Tom Pelham, who under Crist was secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, the growth-management agency largely dismantled by Scott's administration.
"You don't even have a department any more," Crist told Pelham. "What the hell's going on?"