Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Black voters figure in Charlie Crist's challenge to Gov. Rick Scott

Black voter turnout will figure in whether Republican Gov. Rick Scott can repel the challenge from Charlie Crist.

Black voter turnout will figure in whether Republican Gov. Rick Scott can repel the challenge from Charlie Crist.

In any race for governor, things seldom are as black and white as they appear.

The emerging battle between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his probable Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, may be a rare exception.

Scott can win a second term without support from African-American voters, while Crist probably has no chance of winning unless they turn out in large numbers.

It was more than symbolic when the Florida Legislative Black Caucus stood up Scott last week, refusing to meet with him for a talk its members said would be "fruitless."

Tallahassee politicians rarely pass up free media exposure, so the snub seemed like an election year tactic to embarrass the governor.

Black legislators are fed up with what they view as Scott's inflexibility on a range of issues they listed in a letter to him: opposing the expansion of health care, "purging" voter rolls of noncitizens, restoring rights to ex-felons and increasing minority appointments.

Scott said through a spokeswoman that he was disappointed and that he believes in working together to find solutions. African-American lawmakers argue that his record proves otherwise.

Scott was the first Florida governor to name an African-American as lieutenant governor, but Jennifer Carroll's luster had faded by the time she resigned last year from a largely ceremonial post.

Scott signed a law in 2011 that scaled back early-voting hours. That was reversed in part by the 2013 Legislature but remains a rallying cry for Democrats, who pushed a message of "voter suppression" to help drive up 2012 turnout.

Crist signed an executive order in 2008 to extend early voting, a move sought by Democrats that was viewed as helping Barack Obama win Florida because the lines were longest in urban centers with more black voters. Watch how Crist makes that action a central theme of his pitch to all Democrats.

Crist was comfortable campaigning among black voters when he was a Republican, and now he needs their support more than ever.

Crist led an effort to make it easier for inmates to get their civil rights restored after leaving prison. Scott led a 2011 effort that reversed the policy, and now most ex-inmates have to wait at least five years to apply for restoration.

Scott has appointed only one black state agency secretary; Crist appointed several.

Scott has appointed fewer black judges than Crist or former Gov. Jeb Bush. Crist, as a Republican, appointed James Perry, an African-American judge, to the Florida Supreme Court. In his new book, Crist says the decision generated 27,000 critical calls, faxes and emails to his office.

Will any of this make a difference on Election Day? Probably not, unless Crist galvanizes a high turnout of black voters. It's hard to motivate voters of any color in off-year elections in Florida.

Black voters make up less than 14 percent of the state's electorate, and they vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Republicans will relentlessly remind swing voters and independents of Crist's close alliance with Obama, while concentrating intensely on a larger pool of Hispanic voters, and the GOP has more resources to accomplish that.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Black voters figure in Charlie Crist's challenge to Gov. Rick Scott 01/20/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 7:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie


    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  2. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A


    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  3. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  4. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul


    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208
  5. Erin Andrews, ex-NHL player Jarret Stoll marry in Montana


    NEW YORK — Sportscaster Erin Andrews and former NHL player Jarret Stoll have tied the knot.

    FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2016 file photo, Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews, left, speaks with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta. Jennifer Allen, a publicist for Andrews, confirms Sunday, June 25, 2017, that the 38-year-old Fox Sports sideline reporter and ???‚??“Dancing with the Stars???‚?? co-host married the 35-year-old Stoll over the weekend.  (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) NYSP103