Democratic newcomer Charlie Crist says he has no plans to debate his leading rival, Nan Rich, in a party primary as they both run for governor.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now, to be honest with you," Crist told reporters Tuesday night outside a Greenspoon Marder law firm fundraiser.
"I am focused on doing everything I can to help the people of Florida," he said. "And this is not really a race about candidates. This is a race about the people of our state."
Reached by phone, Rich — a longtime Democrat and former party leader in the state Senate from Weston — took issue with Crist's stance.
"I'm an issues person," Rich said. "I'm a policy person. To me, to have a dialogue and a debate back-and-forth about the issues is probably the most important thing that you can do to educate voters about where the candidates stand."
Most polls indicate Crist would soundly defeat Rich in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary.
Rich had only about $75,000 cash on hand in her campaign account as of the last reporting period that ended Dec. 31.
An announced candidate since early 2012, Rich has struggled to catch fire. She's little-known, doesn't have a large staff and doesn't always communicate campaign events or press statements with the media.
Broward College and Broward Days, a legislative advocacy group, had reached out to Rich and Crist to invite them to debate in the state's bluest county. Rich told organizers she'd be open to it; Crist's camp hasn't gotten back to them.
Asked if he had plans to accept the Broward debate invitation, Crist said, "I don't."
Mack won't run
Former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack will not seek his old congressional seat, vacated this week by Trey Radel.
"In the weeks, months and years ahead I will continue to advocate for our shared principles, not as a candidate or member of Congress," Mack said in a news release prepared by his office, "but rather as a private citizen."
Radel, 37, resigned Monday, facing a House ethics investigation, a growing group of primary challengers (former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and potential candidate state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto) and the steady drumbeat of a Republican establishment calling for him to step down. He recently completed rehab for cocaine and alcohol abuse, and pleaded guilty to cocaine-possession charges last year.
Speaking of the ethics investigation of former Rep. Radel, the House Ethics Committee said Wednesday that it dropped the case as his resignation Monday removed jurisdiction. It concludes the downfall of a political career that began only a year ago.
Alex Leary and Marc Caputo contributed.