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CRIST GIVES, GETS WISH LISTS IN VISIT TO WASHINGTON

The governor pushes for Everglades restoration, a national insurance fund and much more.

Gov. Charlie Crist went to Washington Tuesday with a list of federal priorities he wants the state's congressional delegation to address, and left with a lengthy list of state issues it wants him to consider.

The Republican governor pushed for a larger federal effort in the Everglades restoration, the creation of a national insurance fund, more federal Medicaid money, a commitment to clean energy and emissions reductions, and protection of the state's role in the space program.

Then one by one, representatives asked for his help.

Democratic Rep. Ron Klein, who helped write a bill to create a national insurance backup fund, told Crist that the only presidential candidate who doesn't support it is Republican Sen. John McCain, whom Crist endorsed and has campaigned with.

He asked Crist to talk with McCain and others in his campaign and better explain the bill, which passed the House and is stuck in the Senate. He said McCain doesn't seem to understand it.

"It's very important to Florida and many other states. It's not a Florida problem, it's a national problem," Klein said.

Crist said he has already talked to McCain about the proposal and will continue to do so.

Republican Rep. Adam Putnam said that while Crist is working to ensure the federal government commits to the Everglades, he should also push for money to make sure the dike that surrounds its headwaters - Lake Okeechobee - is repaired.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor asked him to put pressure on the White House to protect the Medicaid program, saying Republican governors can have more of an influence on the administration.

After the meeting, Crist met privately with House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., to ask that the federal government keep its financial commitment for the $8-billion Everglades restoration.

Crist later rode with McCain from campaign headquarters to his Virginia primary victory party. Crist helped push McCain to a primary victory in Florida on Jan. 29, then campaigned across the country with him before the Super Tuesday primaries Feb. 5.

He dismissed speculation that he could be considered as a McCain running mate.

"I'm focused on being the best governor I can for the citizens of Florida, and that takes up the lion's share of my time," Crist said.

Earlier, he told the Associated Press he will continue to campaign for McCain.

He acknowledged his relationship with McCain could help the state should McCain win.

"That only bodes well for the future of Florida," Crist said. "Having a friend in the White House, a genuine friendship, can only be good for Florida, and that's very much on my mind."

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