Saturday, November 18, 2017
Politics

Adam C. Smith column: The contemptuous Florida governor's race

RECOMMENDED READING


SARASOTA — Rick Scott, in some respects, makes it easy on journalists. If a reporter misses something he says in an interview, maybe even spaces out for a moment, it doesn't really matter, because Scott is certain to say the same thing again. And again. And again.

So it was Labor Day in Sarasota, as the Florida governor invited a few reporters to join him on a campaign "bus tour," which in fact was an opportunity to chat with Scott aboard his "Let's Keep Working" bus as it traveled about four blocks to a boisterous rally at Walt's Fish Market. The trip somehow lasted nearly 30 minutes, which was more than enough time to get a clear sense of Scott's campaign message for the next two months: Charlie Crist is a slick talker but a lousy chief executive. And he's pals with President Barack Obama.

"Charlie ran the state into the ground. It's Barack Obama in Florida. Barack Obama thinks money grows on trees. Charlie Crist thinks the same way. He would spend money on anything and everything if he could," Scott said, suggesting that cuts in education and environmental protection early in his term were due to federal stimulus money running out and Scott having to clean up the budgetary "mess" Crist left him.

Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to the general election, and as Scott campaigned alongside Attorney General Pam Bondi in Plant City, Bradenton and Sarasota on Monday, Crist attended Labor Day picnics in the Tampa Bay area, as well.

What's clear with nine weeks to go is that both candidates are truly contemptuous of each other. Crist depicts Scott as a heartless corporate sleaze, while Scott talks about "Charlie" as if he's a phony lightweight.

The former governor blasted the current governor as a "corporate governor" who is "crushing the middle class" because he's allowing utility companies and property insurance companies to raise their rates.

Crist scoffed at Scott's pledges to increase spending on the environment and education, and said they were an election-year conversion intended to get people to forget Scott's record.

"He's trying to be more like me, and I understand it because we do what's right for people and he does what's right for corporations," Crist said.

Scott, a multimillionaire former hospital chain executive, repeatedly spoke in a 25-minute interview about his family growing up in poverty and repeatedly described Crist as a failure for average Floridians.

He spoke of "Charlie's tuition increases" and "Charlie's tax increases" and said Crist "made Florida a worse place to live" when he was governor.

Asked about the prospect of expanding Medicaid coverage to provide insurance to nearly 1 million Floridians, as Scott once supported, the governor made clear that's no longer part of his agenda.

"Go talk to the Legislature," he said, suggesting he would only advocate for it if the federal government paid 100 percent of the cost.

He took no position on a controversial decision last week by Lee County School Board members to opt out of all standardized testing. "I think what they're going to focus on are, what are the unintended consequences."

Scott's "Let's Keep Working" campaign tour is scheduled to hit 28 cities over the next two weeks, as he seeks to convince voters in every corner of the state that they are far better off with Crist out of office. He'll promote recent campaign proposals, including $1 billion in tax and fee cuts.

"He's a slick politician, he's a smooth talker. That's not me. I'm not a smooth talker. What I'm focused on is how do you get things done," Scott said, scoffing that the Crist campaign has released few policy papers because Crist "doesn't do policy."

In person, the animosity Crist and Scott display for each other looks entirely heartfelt. Given the deluge of negative TV ads, it may be only a matter of time before most voters agree with both of them.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected] Follow @adamsmithtimes.

Comments
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Published: 11/17/17
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Published: 11/17/17
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Published: 11/17/17

10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

DALLAS — Yet again, the National Archives released a trove of records from the Kennedy assassination files on a Friday afternoon, another strange stream of loose ends, dead ends and tangents with little apparent connection to the assassination of the...
Published: 11/17/17
William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

Jose Vazquez, Democratic nominee in the Dec. 19 state House District 58 special election, doesn’t seem like a criminal. He’s 43, divorced with six children, and has worked as a security guard and in auto recycling. He was a high-level political field...
Published: 11/17/17
Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is displaying selective outrage over allegations of sexual harassment against prominent men in politics, as his own tortured past lingers over his response. Trump moved quickly Thursday to condemn accusations again...
Published: 11/17/17
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y. — Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t ...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation Thursday after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a broadcaster and model while traveling overseas in 2006.The allegations ag...
Published: 11/16/17
Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roy Moore won a reprieve in his struggle to survive as a U.S. Senate candidate Thursday when the Alabama Republican Party affirmed it would continue backing him despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers."Judge Moore ...
Published: 11/16/17