Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oil switch gives Democrats the chance to drill Crist

The first flashes of the 2010 race for governor of Florida flickered across cable TV screens Friday morning, but most people probably missed it.

Appearing on the CNBC Squawk Box program, Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink weighed in on the week's top story: Republican Gov. Charlie Crist ending his long-standing opposition to oil drilling off the Florida coast.

While Crist stood with John McCain in backing a lifting of a federal ban on drilling and letting states decide whether to drill, Sink opposes drilling, period. She sounded like the Crist of old.

"I was stunned by this turn of events. I think this is a very shortsighted approach to put our economy at risk," Sink said on CNBC. "We all know that the first drop of oil wouldn't even come for 10 years."

Sink said Florida should be working to lessen its reliance on oil, and that "the big oil companies are snookering America" by exploiting the current oil crisis and $4-a-gallon gasoline so they can maximize profits.

As Sink spoke, a banner at the bottom of the screen flashed the words "Florida CFO outraged over governor's switch on drilling."

Crist's willingness to consider drilling felt like a transformational moment. No wonder Sink took off the kid gloves.

For the past year and a half, since she and Crist were elected, Sink has shown Southern hospitality toward the governor in their side-by-side Cabinet dealings.

They have disagreed, but cordially. And while Sink did not personally attack Crist on CNBC, she made it clear that his switch on drilling has suddenly altered the state's political dynamics.

To Democrats and even some antidrilling Republicans, Crist's decision to wade into the Gulf of Mexico on oil drilling means he no longer looks invincible, despite his 61 percent approval rating in the last Quinnipiac poll.

This is not to say that Sink's 10-minute TV shot was a preview of her candidacy for governor (she has given no indication she would run). The point is, Democrats are going to use drilling to "open up" Crist, as political consultants say, and weaken him.

To Democrats, Crist's newfound support for drilling is not only a flip-flop; it undercuts his image as a "green" governor and as a populist who's suspicious of big business. Wouldn't Crist be bashing the oil companies the way he vilifies insurance companies?

"This dents his green image a little bit," said Eric Draper, policy director of Audubon of Florida.

Note that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly disagreed with McCain.

Crist sounded convinced that his total record will show that he is an environmentalist.

"You know how much I love Florida and how much I care about our beautiful environment. Nothing has changed in that regard," Crist said by phone Thursday. "That's why I think studying it is so important . . . If we do this, we have to do it in a way that's as protective as possible of Florida's beautiful beaches."

He said he has assigned his chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, to gather data "so we can be more and more knowledgeable about how we can help this struggling economy and the price of fuel."

As Sink left the screen, the anchors announced that they had invited Crist to appear but he declined, citing his recuperation from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Now there's a first: A Democrat blasting Crist on TV and Crist unable to respond.

It was just a few minutes of cable TV. But suddenly, Florida politics feels very different.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Oil switch gives Democrats the chance to drill Crist 06/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 10:58am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.