With roughly six months of sharp-elbowed campaigning already in the books, it may seem like the Florida 2014 gubernatorial race is well underway.
What’s likely to be a nationally watched race didn’t become official, though, until Gov. Rick Scott and likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist filed campaign papers Monday in the downtown Tallahassee office of the state Division of Elections.
It’s no surprise each side used filing day to take shots at each other.
Democrats called Scott’s time in office a giveaway to “big corporations and the wealthy special interests,” while Scott released two years’ worth of tax returns and called on Crist to do the same.
“I hope that Charlie Crist will follow our lead and take the same steps today by releasing his and his spouse’s tax returns,” Scott said in a statement.
When a candidate files papers to get on the ballot, they are required to submit a financial disclosure form, which shows their assets, income over the past year and liabilities. They aren’t legally required to file tax return information, but Crist’s campaign says they will in the coming days.
His disclosure forms give the first look at his finances since he accepted a job with Morgan & Morgan, an Orlando-based law firm that has employed Crist since early 2013. The firm’s founder, John Morgan, is a large Democratic donor and Crist supporter.
Crist brought in nearly $297,000 from the firm through December, his single largest source of income. The former Republican governor also earned $182,933 consulting for the St. Joe’s Co., a Panhandle-based development company, and $133,000 from Foundry Literary and Media, a New York company that published Crist’s book.
His biggest assets include a $216,247 bond account with Fidelity and $194,510 in St. Joe’s stock. Crist also lists a 25-foot boat worth $40,000.
In an education roundtable before filing his paperwork, Crist told a group of Tallahassee-area teachers that he makes “good money” but is running for governor because he “loves Florida.”
Crist, a former GOP governor, education commissioner and state Attorney General, has made a habit of telling people on the campaign trail that until recently he had been living “paycheck to paycheck.”
Scott temporarily removed his assets from a blind trust to disclose them to the state, but says they will be returned to the trust. A blind trust is often used by wealthy public officials to avoid the appearance they are using their public position for financial gain.
Scott’s net worth sits at $132 million, up $48 million from June 2013, according to disclosure forms filed at that time. When Scott initially filed to run for governor in 2010, he listed his net worth at $218 million.
Among Scott’s assets are his $13 million Naples home, and a nearly $100,000 boathouse he keeps in the city. His largest asset is $43 million in RLSI-CSP Capitol Partners LLC, a firm created by Scott to invest in Continental Structural Plastics, a company that supplies plastics to auto and air conditioning companies.
Neither candidate listed any liabilities.
The filing came on a day when both campaigns also sparred over education, an issue that already has sparked clashes between the two candidates. Crist held an education roundtable with Tallahassee-area teachers, many of whom are critical of Scott’s policies.
In addition, Crist picked Sheria Griffin, a Leon County Middle School teacher, to officially file his campaign’s paperwork with the Division of Elections.
“I believe with his leadership we will be able to be in a better situation as teachers for education, as well as financially,” she said as she was turning over the paperwork.
Griffin is a member of the Leon County (Tallahassee) Teachers Association, the county’s teacher union. The statewide union — the Florida Education Association — already has endorsed Crist.
During the roundtable, teachers were critical of new evaluations, budget cuts early in Scott’s administration, and stagnant wages.
In a sometimes passionate interview, Scott said Crist was “crazy” to run on education, pointing to the fact that per-student funding levels fell each year under his administration, and there were teacher layoffs.
“I’ve increased education spending by $1 billion,” Scott said. “For the first time, teachers got pay raised … there is record funding for universities.”