TFS Endorsement: The Governors Race

The Democratic Primary for Governor has been far from a ho-hum affair. Former Governor Charlie Crist’s decision to become a Democrat in December 2012 set the stage for a complicated race. At that point in time, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich had announced her candidacy.   It was widely assumed even more Democrats would jump in at the chance to knock off Governor Scott, be it Alex Sink, Pam Iorio, Bob Buckhorn, or somebody else.  Rumors of Bill Nelson circled for months as everyone waited for another option to emerge.

But one never did.  Instead of attracting new candidates, Rich limped through most of 2013 as the only announced candidate, failing to raise much money and doing little to create a field network to take advantage of any grassroots energy she was generating. Crist then jumped into the race in November 2013 and quickly impressed with his populist message and commitment to the OFA organizing model. Running statewide for the sixth time, Crist began the race as a runaway favorite to unseat Governor Rick Scott whose poll numbers were badly underwater.

As 2014 began, Crist seemed the logical choice for any Democrat actually interested in winning this election. Rich’s campaign was lackluster and her supporters were at times growing more obstinate and delusional about the reality of the race. A common refrain from Rich’s supporters was that the Florida Democratic Party was somehow responsible for her difficulties. The reality is that the FDP was impaired from doing the type of aggressive campaigning the RPOF has done for Governor Rick Scott because Rich stayed in the race. What the FDP did not do was aggressively define Governor Scott following the sun-setting of the useful Florida Watch Action and its replacement by the  far less effective Florida For All.  This in fact hurt both Rich and Crist and helped facilitate the rise in Scott’s poll numbers.

A general sense began to prevail that Rich would not even qualify and that her campaign was over. But then Crist began to make mistakes. A campaigner, who for years as a Republican seemed confident and self-assured, was now suddenly flat-footed and making repeated odd statements in public.  At times Crist looked plain silly and trivial such as when he confronted Lt. Gov Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Crist’s enormous baggage began to be aired publicly and while Rich’s campaign did not necessarily improve in its execution, she unquestionably got a bump as concerns about Crist began to grow among core Democrats. Rich got her second wind due to Crist’s mistakes and the flood of negative articles about the former Governor culminating with Adam Smith’s epic read this past weekend in the Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile Rick Scott’s campaign has been focused, well-funded, but most importantly well-executed to this point. Crist’s once seemingly invincible lead has evaporated and while Scott remains unpopular, it appears Floridians suddenly have as many if not more concerns about Crist than they do about the sitting Governor.

But Nan Rich has not run a strong, focused, or disciplined enough campaign.  The decision to not hire campaign staff until the beginning of this year was an epic oversight that is hard to look past. While our hearts would like to back her, and it is entirely possible most members of our staff will actually vote for her in the primary, we cannot recommend her as a statewide nominee for the Democratic Party. Fundraising, campaign discipline and structure do matter, and Rich has shown she cannot deliver this in a critical election season.  The struggles she has constantly battled during her campaign make us question her ability to effectively govern, as she does not have any state-wide experience to stand on.  While everyone is focused on Crist’s unknowns, very few people are discussing there is a huge unknown in electing Nan Rich as well, as she is completely inexperienced in administration.

That leaves us with Governor Crist. Baring something completely unexpected, he will win the nomination with ease.  This does not excuse the fact that his campaign has been a mess.  He has all the experience needed to be a good Governor, but based on his decisions as a candidate we have to wonder if perhaps his administrative strength has been overstated. The former Governor’s unwillingness to debate his primary opponent may appear to make tactical sense, but showed an arrogance and entitlement that someone new to the party should not be allowed to get away with. That Crist was enabled in this by Democratic Party insiders is most unfortunate.

Many Progressives claim Rich is better on the issues, though a strong case can be made that in certain areas, most notably environmental and consumer protection, Crist may actually be the more aggressively progressive option. Many “pragmatists” claim Crist is a seasoned campaigner who knows how to win elections and gain middle-of-the-road voters, but thus far the former Governor’s campaign has resembled that of a man seeking statewide office for the first time, instead of someone who has run statewide in Florida more than any other living figure.

Progressives have to demand better, both in 2016 against Rubio and in 2018. The bottom line is that no matter how good Senator Rich claims she was on the issues (although quite frankly, she has more than a few questionable votes in her legislative career),  she does not have any administration experience, which is a weakness going up against someone with Governor Crist’s extensive Executive experience, serving as Secretary of Education, Attorney General, and former Governor.    Thus Rich’s poor campaign and her lack of executive experience are a detriment to her ability to be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party.

But we cannot endorse Governor Crist. We thought long and hard about recommending Governor Crist to our readers but simply cannot do so.  It is quite possible that Crist is one of the most qualified candidates to ever fun for Governor, no matter how you feel about him.  However, we would be lying to our readers if we did not state openly that we bent over backwards looking for a reason to endorse Crist. After all it is almost assured that he will win the nomination and while we support good public policy above all, we are Democrats and realize defeating Rick Scott is more important than anything else this campaign season. But time and again, Crist has failed to deliver anything meaningful to progressives. He has failed to win the hearts and minds of those who care more about policy than partisanship.

TFS Recommends: VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE FOR GOVERNOR 

29 comments

  1. The most disconcerting part of the profile of Crist in the St. Pete Times was how little attention he paid to the job while he was Governor. I am also unhappy with his appointments to the Florida Supreme Court. All in all, I think Nan Rich has the better chance of defeating Governor Scott in the general election. If Crist is the nominee, I expect his campaign to continue to falter.

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  2. Democratic Guy · · Reply

    Honestly you can rationalize it anyway you want but anybody who supports nan rich is a fool. A fool taken for a ride by republicans. This non-endorsement of Crist is the most disappointing thing I have seen on this site. You may have done a great job with reapportionment but you are not true Democrats if you do not support our leader Charlie Crist. These sorts of write ups are very damaging to him and as you stated he will be our nominee. So why do this? Why indulge the fantasies and delusions of people supporting Rich who is a Republican stalking horse?

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    1. SOUR GRAPES

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    2. Dems in Action · · Reply

      You are so out of line. You don’t know what you are talking about. You owe Nan Rich an apology. She is no repub stalking horse. But you might be a horses ….

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  3. Crist did very little as governor. He wanted to be Senator and failed. So now he wants to take the job from the ONLY true Democrat.
    VOTING MY CONSCIENCE and
    Voting for NAN RICH ( Hillsborough county).

    PS and watch out for Putnam..he will be a very difficult opponent in 2018…

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    1. Putnam is already raising money for 2018 and will be very difficult, if not impossible, to defeat.

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  4. Tom Bryson · · Reply

    Marco Rubio was no cinch to win that Senate seat in 2010. If left to play by themselves no telling how Marco, having never run outside his own house district in Hialeah might have fared against Kendrick who had never run outside his own US Congressional district in Miami. But then comes Charlie, seriously if not fatally wounded by his embrace of Obama and the dreaded stimulus package, and in the middle of the great Tea Party surge, challenges Marco in the primary. What a nice gift for Marco. He prevails and with the Republican base solidly behind him and now a household name, holding the Republican seat is far more likely. But as we know Charlie isn’t done and in spite of having zero chance at success, he famously makes a bid as an Independent and splits the Democratic base. Cancel the election and give a warm welcome to Senator Rubio and a big thanks to Charlie for making the whole thing possible.

    Since early in Rick Scott’s first term, low approval ratings along with tons of baggage have made his reelection a challenge for Republicans. However, having an opponent with similar approval and tons of baggage coupled with Scott’s large money advantage would likely give the Governor his second term. Once again it’s Charlie to the rescue. For Republicans, Charlie is the gift that keeps on giving. For Democrats, Charlie is a disaster.

    Democrats can win if the contest is about values, principals and policies, but if Charlie is our nominee, it will be Rick versus Charlie in the mud ring. Rick has the money and Charlie cannot credibly promote progressive values. Charlie will lose. Does the second wife need to drown before Democrats learn to promote their own tried and true candidates?

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    1. Once again Tom Bryson is spot on..Kartik, if you are looking for a writer with maturity and great perspective, i know right where to look.

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  5. This is really well done. Good job. I agree on all of it.

    One omission though was buddy dyer from the list of potential candidates. He’d have been good.

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  6. While I agree Nan Rich is a flawed candidate and has not done what she needs to do to be nominated Democrats must realize that Charlie is fatally wounded going into the general election and will not be elected. Rich doesn’t have the baggage Crist does. Simply put her ceiling is much higher as a candidate. Is her floor lower? Yes, but we need to nominate the person with the best shot and that isn’t Charlie Crist. I am from Pinellas County by the way!

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  7. You cut apart BOTH our Democrat candidates…..so explain to me how this squares with “defeating Rick Scott is more important than anything else this campaign season.”

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    1. DCW…..The truth will set you free.

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  8. In terms of “worthy to be a governor on issues affecting Floridians”, Nan Rich is the candidate. Her grassroots engagement and Involvement are tremendous. I wish TFS has endorsed her in spite of lacking in funds.

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  9. Anyone can make an endorsement — or not. Reheated hogwash does not impress. Sen. Rich is the real D and the real deal, too!

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  10. Concerned Democrat · · Reply

    nice to see kartik still works for the randolph clan with his shot at FFA. So when Scott wins will you say if Florida Watch Action still existed he would be out, right?

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    1. Unmistakable shot. Kartik doesn’t exactly exhibit subtly on this issue. He’s made his views clear to the point everyone in the party hierarchy knows where he sits on the PSR/FFA transition. It is completely extraneous to this endorsement but he’s made it.

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  11. Kartik, you are as wise as Solomon. Well done. .The only thing I would offer is Nan’s inability to raise money was partially because of the party’s push of Charlie on the big donors. Also the fact that she is not for sale doesn’t help either.

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  12. Wendy Sejour · · Reply

    Very fair and well written column, vote my conscience I will. #StandWithNan

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  13. Honestly, I agree with this. I think the lack of an endorsement shows just how piss poor the situation is in the Florida Democratic Party. Yes, Florida Democrats might win the governor’s race, but that is about it.

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  14. Well said. Well done.

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  15. Gosh, I thought it was the Republicans who always had a knack for shooting themselves in the foot! Stop all the strategizing and gossiping and doomssaying! Nan Rich, as honorable as she may be as a person, missed the boat, the Titanic actually. She had a shot, and she chose to hide out on her pedestal in South Florida! Crist has no more baggage than the likes of Jeb or Scott. Crist was a good, moderate governor, and no, he did not attempt to reinvent the wheel, as zealot Scott has done, without the experience in elected office, a shred of ethics, and an almost autistic lack of any political skill, charm or leadership. Unbelievably–he has for three years failed to be accountable via simply answering questions that the public has an inherent right as his constituents to know! He is sneaky and underhanded and flat out untruthful! I say let’s not be the “bridesmaid” yet another time, Democrats: get behind Crist, and stop anguishing over what Republican Adam Smith is trying to frame as baggage! For Pete’s sake, if Jebbush could get himself a second term with all the serious skeletons we know are in his closet, I think the voters’ sensibilities can weather Crist’s issues!

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    1. Nan has not hidden anywhere. She’s been all over the state. Crist is the one who hides and won’t stake out strong Democratic positions on the issues.

      He was not a “good, moderate governor.” You must have a faulty memory. He left the state in a shambles and screwed up the Senate race for Dems because of his ambition. He set the stage for both Rick Scott and Marco Rubio.

      We lost the argument about Scott’s criminal background and lack of ethics when Floridians elected him in 2010. Sadly, it looks like we aren’t going to offer the voters anything in November except the lesser of two evils. Don’t blame us for this debacle. Blame the people who chose Crist as the candidate in the first place.

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      1. But Nan has been all over the state mostly going to Democratic organizations and events and not meeting the actual voters on the street. In 2010, Alex Sink had minimal opposition from former Socialist Party presidential candidate Brian Moore, but the primary still had 863,000 voters. I am not a betting man, but I highly doubt that over 800,000 people are involved with Democratic organizations and politics. If that were the cast, then Florida would be more Democratic than Vermont.

        I wouldn’t say that she “hid out” in South Florida, but she did stay within Democratic and progressive circles, with voters who have already made up their minds. The way of winning elections isn’t by meeting with groups of people who will just pat you on the back and reassure you that you are an amazing candidate, but to meet the undecided voters that will determine the election. Her strategy was horrible. And, sorry, but Nan heard this criticism before, but failed to take action. She created her own failure.

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  16. Just met my competition to get out the vote in Broward County. Nice kid. Charlies campaign hired him 3 days ago. Charlie may bring Florida’s unemployment rate down this week. Annette is popping up everywhere and Charlie is going on a bus tour. Good thing he is not concerned about the primary, or is he.
    .

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  17. […] INTERESTING BLOG POST – THE FLORIDA SQUEEZE IS NOT ENDORSING IN GUV’S RACE Full blog post here […]

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  18. Patti Lynn · · Reply

    I have already voted for NAN RICH. Examining the issues, and the history of the candidates, is more than enough to tip the scales. Opportunism is not something that should qualify someone to be governor…he quit on us once…and tried his best to get on the ticket with McCain….does anyone know who he is???

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  19. OrlandoChris · · Reply

    I am very pleased that Adrian Wyllie will be a part of the debate. Floridians deserve to hear from all the candidates to be well informed. Adrian Wyllie deserves my vote and yours too. He is a honest average Floridian just as you and I , that is willing to stand up and do something for the interest of all of us here in Florida. The other candidates both Republican and Democrat are owned and controlled by special interest, like puppets and will lie to your face to gain your vote, then continue the same old agenda that we complain about year after year. Time to get off this merry-go-round, election after election, thinking it will be any different. Take a stand, vote for the candidate that loves this state and is willing to take time out of his life, effort and money to SERVE the people of Florida and stop voting for these ‘paid for’ career politicians that are only out for money and fame and have zero interest in us Floridians. Even if it’s just for honesty alone, vote for Adrian Wyllie instead of the other two (Scott/Crist) which are proven liars. The choice is yours and yours alone, if you want the same old corruption and slap in the face, go ahead and vote for one of the two puppets (Scott/Crist) OR do what is right for our (yours and your children’s) future and vote for Adrian Wyllie. Support him by donating to his campaign, spreading the word and contribute to the super brochure program which I think is very powerful. Visit his website today.

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  20. […] No Recommendation (Democratic Primary)  […]

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  21. Thanks for finally writing about >TFS Endorsement: The Governors Race | The Florida Squeeze <Loved it!

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