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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Welcome to the NFL, Charlie Crist



Charlie Crist's campaign in recent days has been in full outrage mode, suggesting that Rick Scott and his allies have hit "a new low" in sleazy, negative campaigning. Why? Because Scott's Let's Get to Work Committee released an ad yesterday that featured an image of former First Lady Carole Crist and noting that the Crists are declining to release her tax returnns. "What's he hiding?" the ad asks, while Crist campaign adviser Kevin Cate contends targeting a candidate's spouse in a TV ad is unprecedented in Florida and beyond the pale.

But why shouldn't the public have a look at the investments of the woman Crist says has the greatest influence on his decision-making? Heck, why isn't the Crist campaign demanding to see more disclosure of the trusts Rick Scott put under the control of his wife?

Team Crist cried foul earlier this week when Progressive Choice, widely believed to be a GOP front group helping Scott, started airing radio ads that the Crist campaign claims associates Crist with slavery. Here's the script.

The old chain gangs. They were called barbaric, humiliating, reminiscent of slavery. Charlie Crist didn't care. As state senator he wanted to put Florida prisoners back in shackles, men chained together wilting in the hot sun as heavy leg irons dug deep into their skin. But to Chain Gang Charlie it didn't matter - as long as he was tough on crime and easy on guns. Guns? Crist opposed criminal background checks and the waiting period on gun purchases. As governor Crist went even further, stopping even the most sensible gun control bills - allowing weapons to flow into our cities and imposing some of the harshest sentencing guidelines in the country for non-violent offenders. Chain Gang Charlie said yes to guns and yes to the laws that would have put Floridians back in shackles. It's time Chain Gang Charlie answer for his record. Is he the real progressive he claims to be?  Florida deserves the answer. Paid for by Progressive choice.

It's a tough spot. But while I'll leave it to PolitiFact to judge whether Crist suppported enacting the toughest sentencing guidelines in the country for non-violent offenders, everything else in the ad seems pretty accurate. Crist certainly didn't mind when the St. Pete Times derogatively labeled him "Chain Gang Charlie" in the early 1990s, when he wasn't courting African-Ameriican voters. He embraced the label then, and he owns it today.

Back in 1995, Florida House Speaker Peter Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, called the idea of chain gangs in Florida "degrading and disgusting."

After watching images of newly re-instituted chain gangs in Alabama, Wallace (now a Crist supporter) said this: "To me, it brought back images of slavery, and it's just unacceptable," he said.

I'm reminded of something a veteran Republican pol named Charlie Crist once said of to Marco Rubio when he was complaining about tough attacks: Welcome to the NFL.

UPDATE: The Crist campaign this afternoon released the following:

Former Secretary of Florida Department of Corrections and Quincy Chief of Police Walt A. McNeil, former State Senator Tony Hill, former State Representative and County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, State Representative Shevrin Jones (D-101), State Representative Alan Williams (D-8), and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson today released the below statement on Progressive Choice’s offensive ads:

“The history of slavery and racism in this country should not be a political tool. Exploiting it for political purposes is disgraceful and it puts Rick Scott and his allies in a category with some of the most dishonorable politicians in history.

“Rick Scott needs to take responsibility for these disgusting ads and put a stop to them —now.

“We will not be fooled by this despicable race-baiting. We will not be divided and we will not be distracted from the issues that matter to our families: restoring education and scholarship funding after Rick Scott’s cuts and building an economy that works for Florida’s middle class.

“As Attorney General, Charlie led the effort to pass updated civil rights laws to make it easier for the state to prosecute hate crimes.  And as Governor, on issues from voting access to rights restoration, Charlie was a consistent voice for the rights of all.

“Charlie Crist, the People’s Governor, will fight for Florida's middle class families and those working to lift themselves up – that’s why we support him and that’s why he’ll win in November.”

[Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:37pm]


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