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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nan Rich assails Charlie Crist's record, touts her 'grass roots network'



Former state Sen. Nan Rich is working hard to get out the message about her gubernatorial campaign. Namely, that despite what Charlie Crist says, she’s the only true liberal in the race.

The Weston Democrat visited the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Monday to discuss her platform, and mentioned that she thinks the former Republican governor is not the person for the job.

"Your record of what you've done is a good indicator of what you're going to do," Rich said, pointing out her own record of supporting public education, civil liberties, LGBT rights and child welfare advocacy. She also discussed a long record of favoring stricter gun laws, opposing school vouchers and pushing for a higher minimum wage.

She said Crist's biggest weakness is his indefinable position on those same topics, giving her an advantage with the state's left-leaning voters.

"I think that I can mobilize the Democratic base better than he can," she said, adding that her "strong grass-roots network" is something neither Crist nor Gov. Rick Scott enjoy. "You all can just go down his list of issues and he has changed his position on every single issue."

Rich, a former Senate minority leader who spent 12 years in the Legislature, said she has a history of working with opposition leaders, something she said Crist can't do as well as she can, citing his switch from Republican to Independent to Democrat.

"(Crist) has a large number of people over there that are not too fond of him right now and I think would be less likely to do something for him than they would be for me," she said. She says Crist's unwillingness to debate her is "because he doesn't want to discuss all these different issues."

A champion of public education, Rich noted she is not confident in the new Florida Standards based on Common Core because she has heard complaints they are "not developmentally appropriate" for students. She also is wary of new standardized tests being developed using the benchmarks

"The test should be nationally normed so that we can see how our children are doing against the 49 other states, and I think it's a waste otherwise, of hundreds of millions of dollars," she said. She also said that while she doesn't oppose charter schools, those schools need to be held accountable for their performance in a much stricter way than they are now.

Even as Florida continues to dig out of the Great Recession, Rich said she thought there were better ways to address the problems still facing the state. The rebound could be better, because Scott's focus has been on tax breaks for corporations and not small business, she said.

"I think the investment has to be in education and in health care, because during the recession those are the two areas that didn't lose jobs," she said. "We actually created jobs in those areas."

Scott has done the state a disservice by turning away federal dollars based on his tea party ideology, she said. The governor wasted billions in transportation, Medicaid and child abuse prevention funding that could have helped the state grow.

"As governor I would look for every dollar that we deserve," she said. "We pay taxes, we're a donor state. We need to get every bit of it back here for Floridians, for whatever purpose the money was intended."

[Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2014 2:57pm]


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