Florida Gov. Race Series Part 2: What Do Top Democrat Women Think Of Charlie Crist?

Oct 31, 2014

While more men tend to favor Governor Rick Scott more, the final Quinnipiac poll of the Florida Governor’s race suggests by a double-digit margin, more women favor Democrat challenger Charlie Crist over the Republican incumbent. But, in the last part of our two-part series, we’ll find out of top Democrat women actually feel the same way about the Republican-turned-Democrat.

Credit Charlie Crist's facebook page

“Please join me in welcoming the candidate, the man who will win the Democratic ticket to victory in November, Governor Charlie Crist,” said Nan Rich, introducing Crist at a rally.

Rich ran against Crist in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in August and lost. Just days after the primary, she spoke at a “Democratic Unity Rally” to show unification of all the party candidates who won and lost.

“In every election, someone wins and someone loses. Tuesday night, I placed a call to Governor Crist to offer my congratulations on his win and my support, but on Tuesday, November 4th, it will be Rick Scott calling Charlie Crist and Florida will take a giant step in the right direction,” she added to laughter and applause.

But, things weren’t always this friendly. Crist refused to debate her leading up to the primary and during their ongoing battle, she talked to several news outlets about their differences, mainly speaking to her party status.

“I am a lifelong Democrat,” Rich said to WESH 2 News  in late July.

“As I mentioned before, I’m a true Democrat. I have been a Democrat all my adult life since I registered…I have a record…certainly his [Crist] record to date would show he’s not a progressive,” she also said to WUSF late last year.

“People can evolve on an issue. The issue here is changing all positions about 180 degrees,” she said, speaking about Crist again on a Local 10 News show in late June.

Now, Rich says Crist is the Democrat’s best chance at getting into the Governor’s mansion, and she says he really cares about people.

“I just believe that at this point that the person that best reflects you know, my positions and issues that are important to me are on the Democratic side of the ticket and not with the current administration and Rick Scott. When I look at the child welfare system in this state, it’s a disaster what has happened and we have the highest waiting list for seniors that we’ve ever had for home and community-based care. These are people issues,” she said, speaking to WFSU on Friday.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist embraces state chair Allison Tant (left), with Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (right), during a unity rally in Orlando, Aug. 28, 2014.
Credit Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel

And, others, like Allison Tant, agree that the so-called “People’s Governor” really does care.

“I have known Charlie Crist since he was a Senator in the legislature,” said the Florida Democratic Party Chair. “I like Charlie. I trust him to have the interest of real Floridians first and foremost in his mind. I believe he will take policy stances that will protect Florida. I believe he loves our state and his concern for our state is very genuine.”

Tant, who’s known him for more than 20 years, says she believes Crist is the only real choice because she says he hasn’t put people over politics, like Scott has, on many issues. She used education as an example.

“When Charlie Crist was Governor, he funded education. He actually sought a budget that funded public education,” she added. “When Rick Scott became Governor, the first thing he did was take $1.3 billion out of the public education budget, acting almost as if he was some sort of  corporate raider—strip-mining budgets for children, strip-mining budgets for teachers.”

As for his running mate, Annette Taddeo, she says, “I think he’s great!”

Democrat gubernatorial challenger Crist (left) next to his running mate, Annette Taddeo (right).
Credit Charlie Crist's Twitter

Like Scott, Crist chose a Hispanic running mate in the former vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Taddeo says looking at Crist’s record even when he was a Republican, the choice is still clear.

“When he was Governor, he did so many things that made us all so proud and proved that he represents the people and makes decisions, even when pushed to make other decisions by the leadership, at that point, of the Republican Party, he really made the right decisions…when it came to stimulus money, when it came to expanding the voting hours in 2008, when it came to the environment, fought the utility companies, fought the insurance companies,” said Taddeo.

Still, not everyone within the Democratic Party has fully embraced Crist. Take Leslie Wimes, founder of the Democratic African-American Women's Caucus of Florida as well as a black blogger.

On her blog, ’Women on the Move,” she’s written columns, like “Why Nan Rich Supporters Will Never Support Charlie Crist” and questioned whether Crist “can be trusted to not change his stripes if Democrats send him to the Governor’s Mansion.” Both were written before and after the Primary.

Leslie Wimes, founder of the Democratic African-American Women's Caucus of Florida.
Credit MyWomenOnTheMove.com

Now, though, Wimes says she’ll back him. So, why the sudden change in tune?

“I actually haven’t changed my tune towards Charlie Crist,” she responded. “But, what I have done is look at the bigger picture. It isn’t just about me and how I feel. It’s about what affects the state, what affects African Americans.”

She says the way she sees it, she’s embracing Democratic principles, rather than the person. Still, she says a lot of people have expressed to her their dislike for either candidate and want to stay home. But, she says it’s important they still get out and vote their values and at the same time, hold that candidate accountable—in this case, Crist.

“Now, do people change,” she asked. “Absolutely they change! And, I’m hoping that Charlie Crist will true to his word once he becomes the Governor of the state of Florida again, and does what he says he’s going to do it. And, if he doesn’t, you can best believe that Democratic African-American Women's Caucus will be holding him accountable.”

Meanwhile, according to top Democratic Party executives, there have been concerns about the Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat switching parties and switching positions. But, those same top officials say many people are being quiet to show the party as unified behind Crist.

Missed out on the first part of the two-part series? CLICK HERE to take a look at what top GOP women think of their candidate, Gov. Rick Scott. It aired on last Friday’s Capital Report show.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.