Republican Charlie Crist says he's been too busy governing Florida to take a stand on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and other federal issues.
But his leading rivals for the U.S. Senate accused him Thursday of ducking tough questions, noting that the governor makes time to attend out-of-state fundraisers to pump up his record-setting campaign account.
"If you want to serve as U.S. senator, people deserve to know where you stand on the issues," said Republican Marco Rubio, who opposes Sotomayor's confirmation. "I'm prepared to fly up to Washington and New York to debate him … if I have to work around his fundraising schedule."
The front-running Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, also called Thursday for Crist to weigh in on the Supreme Court nominee.
"Florida needs a senator who studies the issues of the day and stakes out principled positions rooted in conviction," Meek said in a fundraising appeal that praised Sotomayor. "Our state does not need a fence-sitter who is the last person to formulate opinions about issues of profound importance."
Sitting on a double-digit lead in the polls, Crist has so far limited his campaign activities to attending private fundraisers and heralding endorsements.
Lesser-known candidates such as Rubio and Meek have been traversing the state to speak at political and civic clubs, Fourth of July picnics and other community events.
Last Friday, Crist attended a Florida Society of Newspaper Editors lunch in Palm Beach but declined to stay for a candidate forum with Rubio, the former House speaker from Miami.
Asked about Sotomayor on Thursday in Tallahassee, Crist said, "I haven't decided, and I've got a lot of responsibilities in the job that I hold. Yesterday, I was actually appointing judges."
He added, "I think it's important to note there are members on the Senate judiciary committee that have seen every minute of testimony, and they haven't made an announcement on it."
Crist's official schedule today is blank except for a 10 a.m. phone call with his chief of staff. On Saturday, he is scheduled to attend a reception at the Sag Harbor, N.Y., home of Jill Zarin, a friend of his wife and star of The Real Housewives of New York City.