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GOVERNOR VS. GOVERNOR

Florida voters face a unique political choice for the first time in state history: They will re-elect a governor or replace him with his predecessor.

It could happen only in Florida, and only because former Gov. Charlie Crist switched parties and is seeking to win his old job back.

Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat, and his successor, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, were elected in very different times but served with similar tools.

Each was in power when his party dominated the Legislature, giving him near complete control to influence policy.

Crist held office as a global recession cratered the state's economy and Scott, elected at the recession's peak, has led the state through the recovery.

The Times/Herald has made a side-by-side comparison of their records in a range of areas, from public school spending to property insurance premiums; from the number of executions to the number of civil rights restoration cases; from the size of the state workforce to the expansion of assistance programs for the poor.

As the Times/Herald has reported, there is little a governor can do to directly affect the state economy. He can't make businesses create jobs. He can't require companies to raise wages or boost middle-class earnings.

A governor can, however, influence state policies and direct his agencies to work with the Legislature to put policies in place that encourage job and wage growth.

When it comes to spending taxpayers' money, a governor's single most-powerful weapon is his line-item veto power over the Legislature's annual spending decisions.

The billion-dollar budget serves as the governor and Legislature's blueprint for their priorities.

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