TALLAHASSEE — Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist debuted his first television ad Monday, a 30-second spot promising an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay for women.
The campaign had high hopes for the ad, saying it would "be seen by a majority of Floridians over the next couple of weeks."
But in the battle playing out over the state's TV airwaves, Crist is already behind.
His chief opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, has spent some $12 million on television ads through his political committee, Let's Get to Work. The English and Spanish-language spots have been airing for nearly nine months.
All the while, Scott's poll numbers have been climbing.
A recent poll by Saint Leo University found the two candidates in a statistical tie. Just six months ago, a Saint Leo poll had Crist ahead, 46-34 percent.
The Florida Democrats aired their first TV spot last month, attacking Scott for having overseen a health care company that paid record fines for alleged Medicare fraud.
The ad released Monday by Crist's campaign takes a decidedly positive tone. Its title: "Sunshine."
The spot opens with the sun rising over the iconic Sunshine Skyway bridge.
"We're famous for our sunshine here," Crist says in a voice-over. "But for many, work starts before it comes up and continues long after it goes down."
Crist goes on to say that he cut property taxes for senior citizens and middle-class families while serving as governor from 2007 to 2011. He also says he saved 20,000 teacher jobs during the economic downturn — a claim PolitiFact Florida rated "half true" because it was federal action that prevented the layoffs.
The ad closes with three campaign promises: If elected governor in November, Crist will raise the minimum wage, demand equal pay for women and restore funding for public schools.
"I'll fight for you, from sunrise to sunset," he says.
Crist hasn't always advocated for an increase in the minimum wage. He stayed silent on the issue when running for governor in 2006.
But on Monday, Crist campaign manager Omar Khan said the ad reflects "who our campaign is about: Florida's middle-class families and seniors, whose lives have gotten harder under Rick Scott."
The campaign declined to say how much the ad buy cost, or in which parts of the state it would air.
Spokesman Kevin Cate said it would run in more than one market.
Opponents quibbled with some of Crist's claims. State Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who serves as Scott's campaign chairman, said Crist had actually raised taxes during his time as governor.
"We need four more years of Gov. Scott's steadfast leadership and job creation," Thrasher said. "The sun has set on Good Time Charlie's time in elected office."