Florida Democrats still need Charlie Crist

CharlieCrist-pensacola-1A fashionable narrative that has developed among some Florida Democratic insiders since the November 2014 electoral debacle is that Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist created the environment for electoral defeat. But when you consider the evidence objectively, Crist almost won the Governorship DESPITE the long decayed statewide infrastructure of the Florida Democratic Party and the failure of many county DECs to do its job effectively.

Crist’s performance owed itself not to behaving like a submissive moderate candidate (though his record might have indicated he wouldn’t be a base-driven candidate) but because he espoused a populist ideology and became a fighter for people and causes. While it will be argued by some that this rhetoric did not match the Crist record as a Republican officeholder, his decision to embrace progressive economic policies and campaign hard in the largest urban counties in the state created a situation where Florida’s top office almost bucked an overwhelming state and national tide.

We have pointed out previously that Crist carried 16 State House districts that Democrats lost in the November election. Currently close to 20% of Republican State House members sit in districts Crist carried in the last election, while ZERO Democrats currently sit in seats won by Governor Rick Scott. Every single seat carried by Crist, but won by Republican House candidates were in urban or suburban areas of the state. The need for Democrats to reinforce base counties and to strongly push ideas that carry bedroom communities that generally vote for the party at the very top of the ticket is critical.

Florida’s political media, for whatever reason, sought to paint Crist as a political opportunist. But in this era of term-limits and single-member districts the vast majority of those elected to state offices are opportunists that are constantly office-shopping. Crist was a publicity hound in the 1990s, a young Republican State Senator with ambition and in a hurry – but as a statewide elected official from 2002 to 2009 he showed the type of independence and leadership that Florida’s brightest Democrats of the 1970s  and 80s had demonstrated. In many cases, Crist put the needs of the state and the challenges of our growth ahead of ideological political fights. He sought to heal the wounds of past shameful behavior by the state on the issue of race, and took enormous risks to stabilize Florida’s insurance market. After eight years of Florida being used as a conservative laboratory by his predecessor as governor, Jeb Bush, a certain degree of normalcy and respectability was returned to the office.

Yet when he choose to run against a Governor who is defined by ideological dogma and scandal, both personal and political, much of the statewide press made Crist out to be the bad guy. The media’s narrative was backed up by a barrage of negative ads favoring Scott — arguably the most negative campaign since the infamous 1950 Smathers-Pepper Democratic US Senate Primary.

Thanks to these factors, Crist was defeated narrowly, and almost immediately Florida Democrats began to move on while floating lazy and tired theories about the need to field more moderate candidates and win more votes in rural North Florida. We’ve discussed at length in the last few months why both ideas are flawed and that it would be smarter for Democrats to focus energy on shifting votes in second-tier medium sized counties along I-75 and I-95 then obsessing on how candidates play in the rural counties of the 2nd Congressional District. No need exists to continue this discussion now but Crist can be a helpful figure in some of these places.

This past week, rumors began to float that Crist would consider a run for US Senate. Whether or not this is true, Florida Democrats MUST find a role for Crist. Unlike the milk toast candidates we have discussed in the past, Crist has a real fire on the stump and a personality that today, much like in 1992 when he was first elected to the State Senate, people find engaging and uplifting.

Whether or not Crist runs for office again, Florida Democrats should be doing everything they can to keep him front and center. However, it seems Crist has been relegated to the back benches while figures like failed former FDP Chairman Rod Smith sit on task forces and others with little or no statewide knowledge or experience are asked to play a major role.

Charlie Crist is a real asset for a party that has managed to lose 19 of the last 20 statewide elections where Bill Nelson has not been the Democratic nominee — they would be wise to use him in any way possible.

 

22 comments

  1. I don’t want to see him anywhere, let alone on task forces determining how Democrats should proceed in the future. Crist backers are the consultant class and party insiders that TFS rails against on a daily basis. Giving them a bigger role is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

  2. The Observer · · Reply

    As it is all too often in the case, we long time party loyalists are constantly left out of the decision process. After all people who do not live here all year like we do and know what motivates voters as we do seem to know what’s best for us. If it comes down to Charlie Crist or Pat Murphy, I will Take Charlie. As long as every time we see Crist, we don’t also see Burt Aronson lurking in the background picking up a check for himself. At least Charlie is not afraid to be seen with the Pesident.

  3. Charlie’s populism and new found liberalism is why he lost Kartik.

    Had he campaigned like Alex Sink avoiding an unpopular Obama and actually taking north Florida seriously instead of camping out in three remote south Florida counties he would have won. He blew a big lead.

    1. On yeah, Crist should have campaigned like Sink – who lost.

  4. This is tired news, Kartik. Here we disagree. Using the comment “still needs” in your title assumes we needed him in the first place. The reason I believe we have a new Congressional delegate in the rural panhandle is because Gwen Graham doesn’t put BS out in front of actually working for people, following the greatness of her father. Suggesting that we shouldnt focus on putting good candidates out for election in rural Florida but now suddenly focus on the corridor will get us no where. Its about finding the right people everywhere. charlie crist isnt the right person anywhere. He’s a good guy, but when do we leave the station and get our own leadership to focus on new options, not on retreads? I’m sorry, i absolutely think you are completely wrong to suggest we need him. We need him like we need Jim Davis.

  5. I think Crist could run the party honestly with his knowledge and compared to what we have currently but he should never run for office again. Too much negative.

  6. get over it · · Reply

    I agree with this article but it speaks more to the FDPs weakness than any strength of Crist.

  7. dianecbrown · · Reply

    This article is so full of baloney. Kartik, you need to put time into learning how to be an effective journalist, or stick to soccer.

    Your very premise that Crist has been relegated to the back benches is not supported by the facts, e.g., Crist was a speaker at a recent state-wide party leadership conference, where he received a resounding welcome by the standing audience.

    Crist has to accept a large part of the blame for his loss, which I am sure he does – those were HIS consultants. If he had put Colombian-bornTaddeo in her home county, with Latina diversity, to motivate voters, he would have won. Instead, she was sent north to court Puerto Ricans. Crist also had very little presence in North FL, which BTW, extends to the Alabama line, outside of Leon and Jax.

    The illusion there is a “fashionable narrative” by party insiders that Crist created an “environment for electoral defeat,” is just that – an illusion. He would not have been invited to speak to state-wide party leaders, if that factual. The idea does not even make sense, and if you were told this, you should have questioned it. Apparently you have forgotten that Graham won.

    1. Diane I don’t agree with anything you wrote here but even in a party full of frauds and losers the biggest fraud and a loser is Annette Taddeo. The fact you would think she could actually help Chris when the election means you haven’t been paying close enough attention yourself.

      As far as KK’s man crush / love affair with Charlie Crist goes I agree he should be utilized more but I don’t want to see him running for office again.

      1. dianecbrown · ·

        You are a mind reader Howard? Or just have to disparage someone whose opinion you don’t agree with? I didn’t say Taddeo was a saint. To what do you allude that would preclude her and her team from getting 60K votes?

    2. Tampa Bay Demo · · Reply

      It is well known right after the election FDP staff started trashing Crist saying he lost the race and pointing to Gwen Graham who ran in a district that only contains about 3% of the state’s voters as an example.

      I hate Charlie Crist and wish he were never our nominee and quite frankly think Kartik has done nothing but suck up to a guy who never should’ve been our party with some of these recent articles. But his description of the excuses made by the FDP and the narrative they tried to push about Charlie Crist after the election are spot on. I’ve heard it from dozens of people. I’m sure he’s heard from just the same folks.

      As far as Annette Taddeo is concerned the mere fact she was picked as a running mate by Charlie should disqualified have him to be governor and shows again what a complete fraud she is that she elbowed hundreds of qualified elected officials in the state who could’ve been on the ticket and put herself on. Maybe she should be asked why Miami Dade County didn’t perform as well as it should have this election cycle and why the turnout was down. But I am sure the convenient FDP narrative blames Brett Berlin and Dwight Bullard for that.

      1. dianecbrown · ·

        You “hate” Crist? I wonder how much of your posting re Crist are biased by this hatred. And you blame Taddeo for accepting Crist’s selection as his running mate? How does that make HER a fraud? Don’t you think it is a bit ridiculous to say she elbowed hundreds of qualified officials? If you have dirt on Taddeo, you should share it so we’ll all know not to support her in the future.

  8. Of all the people in the State of Florida, why do we keep recycling the same names and families over and over again. The Bushes, Clintons, Graham’s and on and on and on. And then there is Crist. What is he now? Independent, Democrat, Republican or a Tea Party Member? We need youth and vitality with a fresh perspective. A true Progressive which once again leads me to Representative Edwards. I have nothing against the aforementioned, but please let’s change directions. It’s certainly worth a try!!!!!

  9. It is amazing what some people associated with the Democratic Party will resort to.

    Some of the comments here are just embarrassing. I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the article totally but the reality is the Democrats in Florida have done nothing but lose statewide elections for over a decade now and Charlie Crist came closer than anyone else has and yes he has been sent to the sidelines.

    This blue ribbon task force the party form does not have Charlie Crist on it yet has extra local officials and people tied to the Tallahassee aristocracy of the party. The same aristocracy that does nothing but lose elections but make money off of the process. The same aristocracy that pushes rules reform as a solution for all the parties problems even using this blog and this author to promote such a ridiculous notion.

    I am not sure Charlie Crist should be the face of the Democratic Party in Florida but you certainly should be on a task force because after all he has won more statewide elections then the Democrats have in the last dozen or so years.

    Before the Democratic Party is an abject failure. The sooner people realize this and just work around the party the better.

    I also love how Kartik is the only person writing in the media actually points out the Florida Democrats record. He’s doing well actually pointing out that CC carried 16 I’ll seats that the Democrats lost in house elections That number should get the entire party staff fired.

    But of course he is so for the party also promoting rules for form and the stupid idea of one county one vote. Can you really imagine liberty County having as much influence as Broward?

    I also love how the Graham example keeps coming up. That was a specific candidate in a North Florida District which is nothing like the rest of the state. I don’t see how it is even relevant to Charlie Crist. I agree with the author on that.

    1. dianecbrown · · Reply

      Is this Alan commenting? Sounds like you.

      You are right. One county-one vote sounds just like one person-one vote.

      1. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

        So Diane, Liberty County which cast fewer than 1000 votes for President Obama should have the same impact on FDP matters as Broward which cast over 500000 votes for President Obama?

        How is that like one person one vote? More like the pork choppers taking control of the Florida Democratic Party yet again.

      2. dianecbrown · ·

        Tampa Bay Demo, “Listen” to yourself: “So Diane, Liberty County which cast fewer than 1000 votes for President Obama should have the same impact on FDP matters as Broward which cast over 500000 votes for President Obama?”

        Let’s tweak your comment to put it in perspective, “So…Henry the fisherman who donated fewer than 1000 dollars should not have the same voice in his government as a Bain Capital that donated 500,000.

    2. dianecbrown · · Reply

      If I was Charlie I would not want to be on the task force. If Allison asked for my recommendations, which I feel sure she did, I would give them, then take a long vacation and start thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I sure would not want to sit in 4-hours hashing over details.

      1. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

        I wouldn’t be sure at all she asked. The party staff and chair are not exactly inclusive toward Democrats that aren’t in the “circle.” You can ask about half the state legislators about that.

  10. It's 2015 not 2006 · · Reply

    I love the line about lazy and tired theories. That’s why absolutely sums up everything and nails the mentality of the party. Playing the candidate especially since he wasn’t he Tallahassee democratic insider candidate and keep up sussing about the funeral counties in North Florida we know something about. Never do the hard work in the counties you keep talking about up-and-down the state where votes can be gained in the larger numbers than in all of North Florida.

  11. Crist is a divisive person. Doubling down on a loser is a good way to lose again. Just ask Crist..

    1. dianecbrown · · Reply

      How is Crist divisive? I’d like to know in case he runs state-wide again.

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