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Tampa Bay

Safe this election, Charlie Crist hits the trail for other Democrats

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist is looking at an easy re-election Tuesday against a less than formidable challenge from Republican George Buck.

That’s likely why he’s spending his time campaigning with other Democrats throughout the state to help them get elected.

Crist started his Saturday in Tampa near Ybor City making the rounds with Chris King, the Lieutenant Governor nominee running with Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Then he made his way through several different canvassing kickoffs in Pinellas County to support local Democrats.

“President Obama put it better than anybody: This election is about the character of America,” Crist said.

“Do we want to be uniters or dividers; do we want to be hopeful or fearful? I hear from a lot of people that are very concerned about the tone in our country right now and the rhetoric and the violence that we’ve sadly witnessed.”

Crist says he’s fed up with modern political discourse, particularly from President Donald Trump, that emphasizes vitriol and potentially promotes violence rather than unity.

The man accused of sending pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democratic officials and supporters — including former President Barack Obama, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and top Democratic donor George Soros — lived in South Florida and drove a white van plastered in pro-Trump stickers and propaganda.

Crist also mentioned the anti-Semitic shooter in Pittsburgh that shot up a Jewish synagogue, claiming the lives of 11 congregants.

“I think it makes a difference,” Crist said of the recent incidents. “Any significant event that touches your heart makes a difference. It’s not about politics, it’s about our character.”

Obama made that point in a Friday appearance in Miami supporting Gillum for Governor and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

In a nod to Crist’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. David Jolly who left the Republican Party and said he voted for Gillum, Obama said the two probably don’t see eye-to-eye on political issues.

But Jolly recognized the rhetoric coming from the Trump White House and couldn’t support Ron DeSantis, who closely aligns with and supports Trump.

More significantly, DeSantis was endorsed by the president, which almost certainly clinched the Republican nomination for Governor this August over otherwise GOP heir apparent Adam Putnam, the state’s term-limited Agriculture Commissioner. 

In addition to Gillum and Nelson, Crist also is urging voters to support Democrats in Florida cabinet races. That includes Sean Shaw for Attorney General and Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner.

Those races and legislative runs are important for Democrats because if Gillum is elected, he’ll need allies in the House, Senate and on the Cabinet to support his campaign priorities.

One of the most notable is Gillum’s plan to raise teacher pay to at least $50,000, and better fund Florida’s public schools and its students.

If he ever needs help in Congress, he’ll likely have Crist’s ear, too. In a hint at his popularity, Crist – who unseated the one-termer Jolly 52 percent-48 percent in 2016 — raised more than $2 million for his first re-election bid. The Republican Buck only brought in just under $30,000, as of the end of September.

In a telling note, Crist also recently sent an email supporting Jacky Rosen, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Nevada.

“This is an important election and Florida is at the epicenter of it all,” Crist said.

“We are the largest swing state. What we do Tuesday is going to send a message to the rest of the country.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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