On Charlie Crist, Ideology, Governor’s Races recent history and failed Florida Democrats

Former Governor Charlie Crist has filed his paperwork to return to the Governor’s mansion but this time as a Democrat. His announcement has been met with great fanfare by many Democrats desperate after years in the wilderness at the state level. We’re told Charlie Crist will beat Rick Scott and his opponent Nan Rich, cannot.

We don’t need to asses the viability of Nan Rich’s campaign today. I think without ruffling too many feathers, we can safely say she is not the ideal standard bearer for the Democrats in 2014- this having been determined she is the person who stepped forward to run when more ideal candidates did not, and for that deserves full marks. The idea that some quietly float that we should not nominate a woman or a south Florida liberal for Governor is both wrongheaded and smacks of the worst types of bias. Later in this piece, I will discuss the 2002 Governor’s race where this mistake was made and the Democratic Party is still paying for it.  On a personal level, Governor Crist is more likely to connect with individual voters because he personal style is generally consider warmer and more apt to listening than Senator Rich or Governor Scott. This all having been said, current public polling aside (and public polling a year before an election is often times a poor guide to follow) no guarantee exists that Governor Crist is stronger than Senator Rich as a potential nominee and worse yet, no guarantee exists that either can defeat Rick Scott. As an observer I see plenty of liabilities in both candidacies and it is unfair to  firmly say at this point Senator Rich has more liabilities than Governor Crist.

Are political parties simply like sports teams where cheer on your team (as has been the case with a lot of the Democrats not only on this Crist matter but in backing some of the more unseemly policies of the Obama Administration) or is meant to reflect the values and ideology of its members? Should critical-thinking skills be dropped at the door as you enter the halls of a political party? A Crist nomination would clearly make the Democrats appear to be a non-ideological party competing against a party that has stood for something for years (albeit stood for the wrong things in most cases) in the marketplace of ideas. My experience guides me to say when confronted with something against nothing, something generally wins. Rick Scott’s Republicans offer Florida something, albeit something many of us disagree with. Charlie Crist’s Democrats would be in vaguely undefined territory and attached to a public record of job loses and flip-flops. 

Democrats have made mistake after mistake in recent statewide races leading to a run where the Republican Party of Florida has been the most successful political party east of the Mississippi River since 2000. The laundry list of excuses the Democrats give for not being more competitive in this state should have run out a decade ago.

I think back to 2001 when Democrats were flocking to run against Jeb Bush.  We were told that Bush was super vulnerable. No less than seven high-profile candidates were in the race at one time. When it all shook down, two high-profile candidates (Ambassador Pete Peterson and Congressman Jim Davis) left the race and two others opted to run for other office (Mayor Scott Maddox and State Rep. Lois Frankel). That left a three-way primary between State Sen. Daryl Jones, Bill McBride and former US Attorney General Janet Reno. Party bigwigs wanted McBride and warned that Janet Reno would flop miserably statewide because she was a south Florida liberal (but also presumably because she was a she). McBride won the nomination by a razor thin margin and what ensued was a non-ideological campaign against the state’s chief right-wing ideologue Jeb Bush. Bush won by a record margin for a Republican with many liberals opting to stay home. Democrats were routed up and down the ballot throughout the state. Election Day 2002 was the worst the Democrats have experienced in Florida since the of the Reconstruction era in the 1870s. On a personal note, I supported Janet Reno and feel to this day the state of Florida lost out on what would have been a potential Governorship to make us proud.

In 2006, Democrats had a contentious primary between State Sen. Rod Smith and the aforementioned Jim Davis. Davis, who was strongly backed by Senator Bob Graham squeaked through the primary and was beat in the General Election by Crist. Davis had been so bloodied by the primary and Smith’s largely negative campaign that he spent a month trying to reconnect with the base of the party, leaving Crist to run a campaign on a hodgepodge of issues (mostly conservative but decidedly liberal on the single issue of Insurance Reform). Many Democrats assumed Davis couldn’t win and didn’t work very hard for him instead opting to focus on other races. In the end, Davis lost but not by the margin some expected. The day after the election Congressman Alcee Hastings lamented that many Democrats had been quick write off Davis after the Primary and that had he been backed appropriately by some in Florida and many outside of Florida he may have just upset Crist.

By 2010 it had been determined by party elders that having a primary was a bad thing. Well Alex Sink went into the General Election untested and unconnected to her base. She lost. Having blown the previous two Governor’s races due to tactical errors it was thought the Democrats would be smarter about things in 2010- But they were not.

Now as we approach 2014 the Democrats after three Gubernatorial cycles of total miscalculation have opted to go in a completely different direction. They have opted to open the gates of struggling party to someone whose public record is lengthy and almost completely at odds with the professed ideology of the Democratic Party. But perhaps the Democrats actually lack an ideology.

Ann Coulter is about my least favorite person in this country. But she has long argued that Democrats are merely interested in obtaining power. I feel the same way about Republicans but this morning given the quick rush among many Democrats to back Crist and not ask the right questions about his candidacy, I sense Coulter may have pegged many Democrats, particularly Florida Democrats correctly.

Many Democrats I sense are so anxious for power and the taste of political spoils that they are willing to lie in bed with anybody. Some of these people who are pushing Crist to me have been doing so because it may represent an employment opportunity for them either in the campaign or if he were elected. In some cases those folks have taken to maligning publicly people who profess an ideology or a values system which after all is what makes people Democrats.

I understand the the big tent concept and taking in converts. But what sort of party makes a convert its leader within a year of becoming a Democrat? A self-professed Reagan Republican is days away from becoming the titular head of Florida’s Democrats. For many desperate Democrats this is all good and well.

27 comments

  1. Everyone needs to remember these things about Charlie Crist: Although a fiscal Republican, as Governor, Crist vetoed key GOP bills including anti-teacher pay & tenure, one that forced pre-abortion ultrasounds, took Progress Energy to court over gratuitous rate increases and protected an honest (PSC) Public Service Commission. Environmentally he fought for and won funding for Everglades conservation, was always strongly anti offshore oil drilling, was praised by civil rights and consumer groups for expanding prosecutions in civil rights issues and forcing tough restrictions on telecoms and power companies. He opposed the whole Terri Schiavo debacle, is a supporter of gay marriage, extended early voting hours and most important (although still too few realize the significance) got rid of paperless un-auditable voting machines.

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    1. He vetoed 2 bills-after he was posturing for the Senate race after the GOP had Rubio 40 points ahead. Not before.

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    2. Dear StPete, This is the first time anyone I’ve read has actually made any sense when supporting him. I might even believe you have no financial or political motive in your position. Unfortunately you also lack credibility by using an alias. At least you let us know you are a home boy. Are you related to Charlie?

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  2. Patti Lynn · · Reply

    “Should critical thinking skills be dropped at the door…” and, ” many Democrats…anxious for power…and political spoils” seem to summarize what the heck is happening in the Democratic race for the governorship. This reflects back to those people who stated that their livelihood was based on campaigns and that, therefore, they had more “skin” in the game than any poor VOTER. If TRUE Democrats would just vote for the BEST candidate: the smartest; the longest serving in the state; the most experienced; the one who has never flip flopped and then flop flipped on Democratic values; the one who has ALWAYS stood up for women’s rights, Gay rights, children’s rights, education, and rebuilding the middle class, then NAN RICH would be, far and away, the most formidable candidate in the race.

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    1. Sharon Sjokvist Isern · · Reply

      Well said, Patti. We lost a great governor in not running Janet Reno…lets not lose another chance for a strong woman governor…let me rephrase that, lets not lose another chance for a strong governor.

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  3. Reading this immature diatribe is ten minutes of my life ill never get back. Charlie is our man. Either get accustomed to it or join the other team … The Rick Scott/Ted Cruz team. I’m sure they’ll be welcoming to you, maybe Cruz’s dad can talk about sending you back to India!

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  4. Sharon Sjokvist Isern · · Reply

    I, also, think we lost a great governor in not running Reno…she is an amazing Florida woman. I support Nan Rich in the primary.

    The best I can say is, if Crist wins the primary, that we are running a “Republican” who is better than Scott. It would be a sad day for Florida Democrats to run a “Republican” as our Democratic candidate. Of course, my dog would be a better governor than Scott.

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    1. Dems in Action · · Reply

      This would be the end of the Democratic Party in Florida.

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  5. Democrats for Crist · · Reply

    Kartik your sanctiminious condescending school teacher tone to us little dumb young students is getting mighty old.

    Another thing getting old is the Reno bitterness. We get it, you backed her, she lost and McBride got routed. It was a mistake and preciesly why McBride’s wife never should have been given a free ride by our party leaders.

    Crist is battle tested and personable (as you even admit) in a way that McBride and Sink were not. So come off it already!

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    1. Sharon Sjokvist Isern · · Reply

      Was Scott “battle tested.” I, for one, never heard his name until Tea Party money got it in the news. As a someone who believes “vote anyone but Scott” I will support any Democratic candidate for governor…I just think Nan Rich is our better candidate.

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  6. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    This piece says it all. I’m a conservative democrat but respect liberals. Crist has no ideology and is lying thief on top of that. His sole ideology is personal self aggrandizing because the truth is he is an insecure person who knows he’s inadequate in every way.

    I don’t agree with Nan Rich on many issues but won’t begrudge her. Crist is a ticking time bomb. He WILL NOT WIN against Scott. The GOP will throw the book at him and flatten him and the democrats in the process.

    Kartik’s series has been the truth. Pity more of you cannot think for yourselves!

    PS- Think! Is an oxymoron. You my friend are a total Lakhi with zero independent thinking skills.

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  7. Democrats for Change · · Reply

    Thanks for the absolutely useless history lesson. No one cares about Janet Reno or Jim Davis. Has beens and losers.

    Charlie is our man!

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  8. Mark Lynn · · Reply

    Why are you folks fighting over 2002?? That is ancient history. McBride was weak, but Reno was an even bigger disaster waiting to happen. Honestly, Daryl Jones was probably the best qualified, but again let us focus on the future. Our party has a very weak bench. Weaker than 02, far weaker than 92. Thus, we don’t have many options. I’m not overly crazy about Crist, but the guy is viable. Nan Rich is not. If I could pick the Dem Candidate for 14 it would be former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. She was a great mayor (re-elected with something like 80%), served over a decade as Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections, and six years as a county commissioner. Her resume is far superior to the last ex-Tampa Mayor elected governor (Bob Martinez). We are going to have to look at the moment toward municipal & county officials for some fresh candidates, since our legislative bench is so weak. Hopefully, with the election of more legislators like Amanda Murphy, Jose Rodriguez & Karen Dentel, we can eventually rebuild our farm team in Tallahassee.

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  9. demdaysi · · Reply

    Wasn’t Marco Rubio a state representative and state senator before he ran for US Senate? He was also from south Florida. Did everyone forget he won his US Senate seat with little name recognition? Why is it ok for the republicans to run a candidate with these credentials and not the democrats? Nan Rich has the same credentials as Marco Rubio had in 2010. She can win, if given the support of the democratic party that Marco got from the republicans.

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  10. I see no reason to ever back a Democrat statewide if we run Charlie Crist. The meaning of what a Democrat is will forever be cheapened in the state of Florida if he is our candidate.

    I am not giving another dime to the Florida Democratic Party ever if he is our nominee.

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  11. “I think without ruffling too many feathers, we can safely say she is not the ideal standard bearer for the Democrats in 2014- this having been determined she is the person who stepped forward to run when more ideal candidates did not, and for that deserves full marks.”
    I think progressives need to take a step back, and take stock of themselves. I hear a lot of whining from fellow progressives about Charlie Crist and his failings, and I understand all of that. People are frustrated that we as a party can’t do any better, and that is a valid feeling as well.
    BUT, progressives bear just as much of the fault for not fielding a viable candidate themselves. It seems we all want to throw up our hands and complain that no one is supporting Nan, without wanting to admit that Nan is great on the issues, but a deeply flawed candidate. She is a terrible public speaker, has done nothing to inspire the five different audiences I have seen her speak to in the past four months, and translates very poorly to crowds of people who are not progressive stalwarts. And while criticism of her gender or her South Florida roots may be a little silly, let’s not forget that when the next Governor is inaugurated, she will be older than any U.S. President ever was upon taking office. People look at her and do not see a reflection of themselves, they see their grandmother.
    If progressives are so upset at Charlie coming in and taking the party lead, why don’t we recruit a young, dynamic progressive to run, instead of just taking what we’re given? Isn’t that our criticism of FDP? That they’re just accepting what they’re given (Charlie)?
    And yet, we progressives are doing the exact same thing. Supporting a third tier candidate, simply because she is progressive, rather than seeking out one of our young legislative or local government stars to run with the ball.
    If Nan isn’t gaining support, it isn’t because of FDP. It’s because progressives haven’t recruited a viable alternative candidate to Charlie.
    There’s still time. Who should it be?

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    1. Janet Burnett · · Reply

      I find your remark of “third tier” candidate disrespectful of Senator Nan Rich. Charlie is in no way personable. I met him or rather tried to meet and talk with him at the FDP conference in Orlando. I observed him smooching little senior ladies – and I do mean little as in vertically challenged. He posed for the tv camera, smiling on cue. I was shocked – I though someone who had been in representative politics for a while would be a bit more seasoned.

      I find him insecure and downright rude. He practically pushed through me and my friend as we stood there trying to engage him. He disrespects protocol and wouldn’t even stop speaking when he knew the speaker to follow was Nan Rich.

      The man is downright distasteful. I might hold my nose and vote for him if he is the candidate against the store bought person living in the governor’s mansion. Or I might ask someone to select him on my mail in ballot. I don’t know if I can do it myself.

      Yes, I know we have conservative Democrats. I don’t even know what that means. The Democratic agenda is that much more Progressive than conservative. Nan is a good choice for a Progressive candidate for Florida.

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  12. You people are all idiots and the best friends the Republicans have in this state.

    Do you realize how easy it is to win with Crist? As noted in this article he’s been Governor before. He’s been Attorney General. He’s been Education Commissioner. He won those races With an average of 54% of the vote.

    He would be a US senator today if Kendrick Meek had done the right thing and dropped out of the U.S. Senate race as our president our leader and his staff and the White House proposed be done. But the selfishness and ego of Meek prevented this from happening.

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    1. Real Florida Democrat · · Reply

      The people backing Crist are the same idiots that got us in to a situation where the other party has controlled the state for 20 years. The same greedy and incompetent consultants, the same staff, the same insiders, the same chosen bunch in Tallahassee that pontificates to us that we cannot possibly understand the state if we live in the rest of the state and if we don’t have the privilege of living in a city that has nothing but politics and FSU sports 24/7. Honestly we will continue to lose if we let this gang run things as they have for two decades.

      Guess what? We deserve to lose thanks to these folks. These people are only interested in money and have spent zero time trying to mine the deep Democratic bench and the county and city level in this state from I-4 southwards. They are comfortable networking with Tallahassee insiders and use total group think to make decisions. Then the greedy consultants employ the same lousy vendors and skim money off the top. It is a viscous cycle and one that shows no signs of stopping.

      I would like to see the party activists finally grow a spine, stop echoing the nonsense about party loyalty and actually stand up to these losing bullies.

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      1. Janet Burnett · ·

        Thanks for your comment. I echo the sentiment.

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    2. This assumes every single Meek voter would have voted for Crist and that every single Crist voter would have stuck with Crist once he became the defacto Democratic nominee. That is a HUGE leap of faith, an assumption that simply cannot be made. Rubio would have won regardless if Meek dropped out or not in my opinion.

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      1. I agree with this honestly. I think it assumes way too much. Rubio was always winning once he got the republican nod.

        But meek was still selfish. His desire to keep running meant we had no chance!

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    3. Janet Burnett · · Reply

      You have to be kidding!!

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  13. Florida Voter · · Reply

    Nan Rich’s candidacy is a joke. She’s too old, too ethnic, too regional and too liberal to be elected Governor of Florida. Sorry but it is the cold hard truth.

    However, Charlie Crist is a deeply flawed candidate with so many potential problems if he gets the nomination it is too lengthy to spell out here. Let’s just put it this way: The GOP cannot wait to face him next Fall.

    Again our party has FAILED in its biggest test – candidate recruitment.

    Hello, Allison Tant, what exactly do you do on the job?

    Florida Voter

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  14. Do you want to win? If you do then keep reading. If you don’t quit reading.

    The left of our party is taking us off a cliff. The candidacy of Mandarich is a joke. She is too old to liberal too regional and too ethnic to be the governor of Florida.

    But Anyone who believes Charlie Crist is going to be as strong as other possible candidates has not paid attention to his political career prior to this party switch.

    I had really hoped someone like Alex sink would have run. She was unlucky last time but man from her mistakes and we could beat Rick Scott. There were other options also.

    If you really want to win and not just score political points by either backing the most extreme liberal candidate or backing a party switcher we need to get together and have a conference to pick a stronger candidate. Since the Democratic Party will not leave maybe those of us care about the part should take the leadership.

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  15. I may be wrong, but if I remember, the combined total votes of Crist and Meek still was not more than Rubio at the end of the 2010 senate race.

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