Republican attorney general candidate Tom Warner said Tuesday that Education Commissioner Charlie Crist is a professional politician and not qualified to become the state's chief legal official.
Warner, the state's solicitor general and a former legislator, said Crist, one of his two opponents in the Sept. 10 Republican primary, "does not have the knowledge, skills, background or experience to be the state's top lawyer."
Crist responded by saying Warner is running out of money and getting desperate.
"The combination of his bank account and the summer heat have gotten to him a little bit," Crist said. Warner, Crist and state Sen. Locke Burt are seeking the Republican attorney general nomination.
State Republican Party chairman Al Cardenas said Warner's comments were inappropriate and that he planned to talk to the candidates about their responsibilities.
"The party will not stand for this kind of mudslinging," Cardenas said. "We think we have three qualified candidates."
During a news conference, Warner said Crist has not distinguished himself in his two years overseeing Florida's education system. "A lot of people are very disappointed in his lack of performance as education commissioner," Warner said.
Warner noted that Crist didn't pass the Florida Bar exam until his third try and has not practiced law in a meaningful way.
"It's not where you start out," Crist responded. "It's where you finish."
Burt also lacks the experience Florida deserves in its attorney general, Warner said. "He has never practiced law a day in his life."
Crist, who ran statewide in each of the past two election cycles, is considered the favorite to win the Republican nomination.