Charlie Crist has taken a lot of criticism for having long stood by his good friend, former state GOP chairman Jim Greer, now accused of looting state party money and facing criminal charges of fraud and money laundering.
So does Gov. Crist regret plucking Greer from obscurity and putting him at the helm of the state party? Not really.
"I'm not sure. We don't know," the independent Senate candidate said in an exclusive Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9. "There's not been a trial, the jury is still out. We don't know what the conclusion is yet, and people in this country, thank God, are innocent until proven guilty."
Crist, who is trailing Republican Marco Rubio, also swatted down speculation by some Republicans that he may not spend his entire war chest on this campaign. The thinking is that if he held on to some money, he could roll it into another political committee and run for something else in 2012 — such as C.W. Bill Young's congressional seat.
"I'm a big fan of Gen. Patton's: You need to fire all the bullets. We're going to fire all the bullets," Crist said. "We will use those resources to tell the truth to the people of Florida, that it's time for an independent voice in Washington, D.C. Enough of the party bickering, let's move on to helping Florida.
For a $130,000 job?
The latest campaign finance reports released Friday show that Democrat Alex Sink has now spent more than $10 million running for governor, while Republican Rick Scott is up to $56.5 million.
Sink's campaign raised $382,000 from Oct. 2 to 10, bringing her total raised to $10.1 million. She has collected more than 63,000 checks of $500 or less.
Scott wrote himself another check, this one for $1.7 million. He has spent $45.2 million through his campaign account and $11.3 million through his Let's Get to Work electioneering committee.
Cutting off Kosmas
Central Florida Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country, issued Tuesday what has become a fairly routine bit of news from her campaign: a strong fundraising quarter. She took in $525,000.
But it came with a less sunny development. Only days after yanking one of two weeks of television ads for Kosmas, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was scrapping both weeks.
"The DCCC constantly makes adjustments based on the level of Republican activity in a district," committee chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. "We are fully invested in the critical voter contact efforts in Suzanne Kosmas' campaign. We will continue to keep our options open as events change and remain confident that our efforts, coupled with Suzanne's overwhelming financial advantage, will ensure a victory in November."
Republicans worry about splintering
Republicans in North Florida are worried that "splinter" candidates could siphon votes from Steve Southerland, the GOP candidate who is seriously threatening to end Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd's career. There are two other candidates on the ballot, including Dianne Berryhill, who is running with no party affiliation and has some ties to the tea party.
"When you look at the parties to choose from, only two have any realistic prospect of actually winning a race," Greg Marr, head of the Capital City Republican Club in Tallahassee, wrote in a recent memo. "It might feel good to vote for one of the others, and you might have to hold your nose when you vote for the Republican, but it's not about feeling good. It's about winning elections. We don't get any stronger by diluting our efforts."
Times staff writers Michael Bender and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.