You would scarcely know it from their campaigns or the media coverage, but Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist must win primary races before they face off in the November gubernatorial election.
Gov. Scott has only nominal Republican opposition, but former Gov. Crist faces a credible, if underfunded, opponent in Nan Rich, the former leader of the Senate Democrats.
The 72-year-old Broward resident is proud of having been a champion of education and children’s issues, and she can rightly claim to be the tried and true Democrat in the race.
Crist, 58, was a Republican most of his political career. He became an independent when running for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and became a Democrat less than two years ago.
Crist is widely derided as a political opportunist who will do anything to get elected.
Although that is not an unfair assessment, there is another way to look at Crist’s mutability. He is not a leader in the mold of Jeb Bush, who does what he believes is right, regardless of its popularity.
Crist is a populist who seeks to please citizens. He is unlikely to launch bold, but possibly unpopular, initiatives. But he also is unlikely to do anything far outside the window of public sentiment.
And although he’s done a dizzying number of political about-faces, there also has been a certain consistency to Crist, who has served in the Legislature and as education commissioner, attorney general and governor.
He used to characterize himself as a “live-and-let live” Republican, one who was a fiscal conservative but didn’t dwell on social issues. He was tough on crime, but he worked to restore voting rights to released prisoners. He generally has been supportive of education, the environment and consumer protections.
So Democrats — at least moderate Democrats — shouldn’t find him a difficult fit for their party.
And it should matter to West-Central Florida Democrats that Crist lives and works here and represented the region in the Legislature.
In the Democratic primary for governor, The Tampa Tribune endorses Charlie Crist.
Scott will be on the primary ballot as well, though his two opponents are virtually unknown and unfunded.
Scott, a former business executive who had never run for office before 2010, is no natural politician. This contrasts with Crist, who seems to relish campaigning.
But Scott has a good story to tell. When he first took office, he seemed more concerned with political ideology than Florida’s needs and history. But Scott began listening to others and governing more thoughtfully, while still advancing his agenda of cutting taxes, streamlining government and advancing private enterprise.
Jobs have been his priority, just as he promised during his first campaign. During his tenure Florida has added more than 600,000 private-sector jobs.
At the same time, Scott has become increasingly concerned with education, child protection and the environment. He is resolute about cutting costs, particularly making higher education affordable for all families.
Scott may be awkward on the stump, but he is looking comfortable in the governor’s office.
In the Republican primary for governor, The Tampa Tribune recommends Rick Scott.