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Politics

Crist's campaign manager exits campaign

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Published:   |   Updated: December 4, 2013 at 05:26 AM

TAMPA ญญ— Charlie Crist's newly formed campaign for governor hit a bump in the road Tuesday as he announced that recently hired campaign manager Bill Hyers won't be working for the campaign after all.

“It's early. Our campaign structure is still coming together. Bill wanted to stay in New York because it was good for him,” said a statement from Crist, relayed by public relations consultant Kevin Cate, who has worked with the campaign.

The campaign was tight-lipped about the departure, providing no other details or explanation Tuesday, including the reasons for the break or possible replacements.

Newly hired press spokeswoman Lauren Hitt, who has worked with Hyers on past campaigns, will be leaving also.

Hyers was hired by the Crist campaign fresh off a stint as campaign manager for the successful Bill de Blasio campaign for mayor of New York.

That campaign, plus his work as campaign manager for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and a 2006 U.S. House race for Kirsten Gillibrand, now a senator from New York, made Hyers into “a blazing hot commodity” among Democratic political operatives, according to a recent Washington Post profile.

The opening of Crist's campaign hasn't gone as smoothly as he might have wished, and Hyers' departure adds to the wrinkles.

Soon after Crist announced his candidacy Nov. 4, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott had improved his standing against Crist, although Crist still led in the race.

Then, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who has refused to rule out getting into the race against Scott, cracked the door open a bit wider on a possible run. Two weeks ago, Nelson said he would consider running if it appears the Democratic nominee -- presumably Crist -- can't beat Scott.

Crist turned in a respectable fundraising total just after beginning his campaign -- his independent political committee, Charlie Crist for Florida, has pulled in nearly $1.3 million in his first month as a candiate. But Scott's independent committee, Let's Get to Work, will show a far larger figure for the month when campaign reports are filed, more than $5.8 million, according to its website.

wmarch@tampatrib.com

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