ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist took his campaign for governor to the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus on Friday, hosting a roundtable discussion with students that touched on affordable housing and recent efforts by Republican leaders to limit classroom discussions on race, gender and sexual orientation.
“There seems to be a lot more intrusion if you will,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said in answer to a student’s question about recent legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. “For whatever reason, Tallahassee of late seems to want to grab a lot more power.”
Responding to a question about the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, dubbed by critics as the “don’t say gay” bill, Crist called the measure an “assault on the LGBT community,” adding that it was “appalling” and “inexcusable.” He also referenced DeSantis’ feud with the Walt Disney Co., which opposed the legislation.
“We’re all children of God,” Crist told students gathered in the University Student Center ballroom. “Never in my life have I seen a Florida governor go after Disney World. They call it the happiest place on earth. It’s Mickey Mouse for crying out loud. It’s weird.”
Andres Montero, assistant director of external and governmental affairs for student government from the USF Tampa campus, asked Crist how he would address the rising costs of living in Tampa Bay.
Crist said he empathized with students and told them that, until recently, he rented a downtown St. Petersburg apartment that cost more than his apartment in Washington D.C. He also commiserated about gas prices and filling his 2010 Lincoln only to half a tank, which still cost him $40.
“It’s a huge issue,” he said. “Florida’s becoming unaffordable.”
Crist said his ideas for addressing the problem include restoring Florida’s Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, established in 1992 to pay for affordable housing using small taxes on real estate transactions. Over the years, state leaders have used the fund for other needs.
Crist also pointed to St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch’s commitment to affordable housing and said he would advocate for more federal dollars to address the problem.