Crist criticizes Scott on environment and economy on swing through Gainesville, talks campaign cash
Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.
In a crowded fire union hall in east Gainesville, Charlie Crist held up a blue and yellow bumper sticker to the semicircle of supporters around him.
Outfunded and outspent by incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democratic gubernatorial candidate, implored the crowd to take a bumper sticker as they left the short campaign event, which started about 45 minutes late and lasted about 10 minutes.
A billboard along the interstate could cost about $10,000 Crist said, while the bumper sticker costs next to nothing and says much more in terms of support.
"How do you beat a guy with $100 million?" Crist asked. "We've got to be smart. We've got to be faster. We've got to be leaner. We've got to stretch our dollar."
Crist told the crowd Scott had spent about $30 million against him in advertising while his own spending on a television advertising campaign that just started is in the range of $400,000. Those numbers differed from a recent Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau analysis, which showed $16.1 million in television ad spending for Scott and $3 million for Crist.
Crist, the prospective Democratic nominee — although he still has to get past former state Sen. Nan Rich in next month's primary — pointed to poll numbers that showed him leading in a head-to-head race with Scott. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week showed Crist ahead by five points in a head-to-head race, but statistically tied when Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is included. That same poll showed a lack of voter trust for either candidate.
"Finally being able to communicate now as we have for two weeks or so makes a big difference," Crist said. "I think it helps a lot. I mean he's been trashing me for months with $20 million. Sooner or later it's going to have an impact — I think that's what you saw in that (poll)."
Campaigning, Scott has frequently pointed to job growth in Florida during his 3½ years in office. Crist, who was in office when the national recession hit, said Scott is taking undue credit "for all the jobs hard-working Floridians have made happen."
He criticized Scott for opposing an increase to the minimum wage. He alleged Scott did not support teachers when it was not an election year and did not protect the state's environment.
"He doesn't respect our environment, our precious Florida," Crist said. "Hell, he's from Texas — why should we be surprised about that?"
Crist said Scott did not agree to meet with scientists on the issue of climate change until Crist said that he would. After his event in Gainesville, Crist was on his way to Tallahassee to meet with those scientists at an event open to the media.
Following the meeting, Crist used the opportunity to point out that Scott isn't saying much about climate change.
Crist said he continues to believe climate change is a serious issue that threatens Florida, the state most vulnerable to rising sea levels. So the half-hour presentation from Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton wasn't to convince him there's a problem.
"It's to try to push the dialogue," Crist said. "I'm convinced. I'm a believer and I notice that my opponent … would not meet with this wonderful scientist. It's important for people who have the opportunity to help direct policy to be open-minded and to listen."
Chanton and nine other scientists offered to meet with Scott on climate change after the governor deflected a question on the topic, saying he wasn't an expert. Crist immediately said he would meet with the scientists. Scott later said he would also meet with them, but he hasn't scheduled anything.
"I haven't heard from his office directly," Chanton said. "I'm sure he hasn't gotten around to it yet. I'm just waiting by the phone."
Scott's campaign on Friday didn't directly answer questions about whether the governor believes climate change exists and whether humans are causing our contributing to it. Instead, the campaign twice pointed out that Scott supports restoring the Everglades and other water projects.
After his speech in Gainesville, Crist fielded questions from reporters. He said he opposed the Obama administration's decision to open up waters off Florida's east coast to oil drilling. He noted he was in office during the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010 and that the aftermath of that was enough to show the "devastation drilling can do to the environment and economy" of Florida. He said energy policy should move more toward wind and solar.
Campaigning, Scott has criticized Crist for signing into law 2009 legislation that allowed universities to increase their tuition by up to 15 percent annually.
"They were difficult times," Crist said. "We had to make some tough decisions, and the university presidents all came to me and said if you can give us the option of doing this it will help us get through this tough time, and that was hard to argue with. I understood it, and I tried to use common sense and do what was right for our universities and our kids. Certainly some are going to criticize it. Our opponent, he criticizes me for crossing the street."
The crowd of supporters at Friday's rally included current and former School Board members and city commissioners, along with members of the county's Democratic Party. Democratic state Rep. Clovis Watson introduced Crist and praised him for supporting the restoration of voting rights for released felons. Crist also called current county Democratic Party chair and former city commissioner, state representative and County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut to his side. Putting his arm around her, Crist hinted that Chestnut might have a job in his administration if he wins in November.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.