Charlie Crist Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Biden plans trio of Florida rallies next week

Former Vice President Joe Biden will make three stops in the Sunshine State early next week to rally for Democrats up and down the ballot.

At noon Monday, the Delaware Democrat will be in Tampa holding a get-out-the-vote rally alongside U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Attorney General hopeful Sean Shaw and nearby Congressman Charlie Crist. That’s at the University of South Florida’s East Gym, 12301 USF Maple Drive, Tampa. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

At 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Biden, Gillum and Nelson will headline a similar rally in Jacksonville, this time joined by local congressional candidate Nancy Soderberg. That’s at the University of North Florida Field House, 11852 University of North Florida Drive, Jacksonville. Doors open at 3:45 p.m.

Capping off the two-day circuit is a 3:45 p.m. rally on Tuesday in Orlando. Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, will not be present, although Biden will be joined by Nelson and Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. That’s at the Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W Church St, Orlando.

A news release announcing the appearances notes that Biden will make stops at college campuses “to encourage young people to vote early, and promote Democrats up-and-down the ballot.” It also highlights that early voting begins in Hillsborough, Duval and Pinellas counties on Monday.

“This election is a battle for the soul of America, and Florida has the chance to decide the future of this country. I am honored to stand with Senator Bill Nelson and Mayor Andrew Gillum as they work to restore our nation’s democracy,” said Vice President Biden. “The stakes couldn’t be higher in 2018. We need Floridian’s voices to be heard at the polls this fall, and that starts with early voting.”

Biden earlier this week endorsed Shaw, the Democratic Attorney General candidate. He has also offered support for candidates running in special elections during the past two years, even going as far as recording robocalls to go out ahead of February’s House District 72 race, which saw Democrat Margaret Good secure an upset victory.

It’s no secret that Biden, who served two terms under former President Barack Obama, is mulling his own presidential bid in 2020. And there’s an emerging trend of other presidential potentials making headlines in Florida this cycle. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his rounds through South Florida earlier this month. Another national Democratic figure, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, endorsed Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried earlier this week.

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculturE.

Jacqueline Dixon, Dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, compared red tide to naturally-occurring bacteria in the human body.

“As long as those conditions are conducive to a healthy ecosystem, we’re all good,” Dixon said. “But should we change those conditions, then one bacteria can bloom and cause an infection.”

She explained red tide naturally grows at the bottom of the Gulf. It’s a plant, she said, and when you feed plants nutrients, they grow.

The explanation lends to the argument among critics of Gov. Rick Scott that environmental deregulation under his administration has increased the likelihood of a harmful red tide algal bloom.

William Mitsch, director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park, said that may be the case, but scientists have yet to find steadfast evidence proving that it is the culprit. Further, he said even if it is a culprit, it’s not the only one.

Climate change is increasing water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. That paired with increased rain and nutrient runoff from Florida agriculture creates “a toxic brew” ripe for red tide development.

“Can we change the temp of the Gulf of Mexico? Probably not,” Mitsch said.

But he said Florida legislators and federal officials can take steps to mitigate red tide occurrences by better regulating nutrient pollution and creating new wetlands that serve as a filter for water before it reaches the Gulf.

Mitsch recommends adding 100,000 acres of wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee. He said it’s crucial that water flow be directed south – its natural course – rather than east and west to the Gulf and Atlantic shorelines.

Nelson and his Republican colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, successfully included provisions for wetlands in the recent Clean Water Act that includes 6,500 acres of new wetland-like land and a 10,500-foot reservoir to tame nutrient-rich water runoff.

Mitsch cautioned that’s not enough: “If you have 100,000 acres of new wetlands, you don’t need that reservoir.”

The three federal lawmakers all lamented that politics was getting in the way of clean water. Crist said he supported federal funds for buying land to create new wetlands, but implied his hands are tied.

“Talk to me in three weeks,” he said, referring to the Nov. 6 election.

“Elections matter. If we have a governor … who does not [understand or believe in climate change], or one that won’t let people in the environmental agencies utter the words ‘climate change,’ you have a problem.”

Scott, who defeated Crist for Governor in 2014, came under fire during his administration after issuing a memo telling staff not to use the term “climate change.”

Scott denies that claim and points to reports from departments within his administration that have studied climate change and sea level rise. He also defends his environmental track record including allocating $300 million for flood mitigation and resiliency.

Crist supports Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for Governor over Republican Ron DeSantis. DeSantis recently acknowledged pollution might be an exacerbating factor in red tide, but said it’s not the state’s job to mitigate it. Gillum has been more direct on the issue of climate change.

Climate change is real, it is impacting Floridians directly, and we will not be silenced on the matter. When I’m Governor, we will not just talk about climate change: We will put Floridians to work to make our state more energy independent and resilient and transform our state into the Solar Capital of the United States,” Gillum wrote on Facebook last March.

Karen Cyphers: Breaking down the impact of Hurricane Michael on Panhandle voting

The entire state is focused appropriately on hurricane recovery, relief, and repair efforts. But with less than three weeks before Election Day, what does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of people in the affected regions?

Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Andrew Gillum, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and many other elected officials have been actively working on recovery efforts in the state, and while many of them have (at least temporarily) suspended their campaigns, a big question that remains unanswered is whether Hurricane Michael will disenfranchise voters in the Florida Panhandle.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner — the state’s go-to official on elections issues — said this week that he is waiting to hear from local supervisors of elections before making proposed changes, but in some of the areas that were hit the hardest — like Bay County — many of the buildings and facilities used for precincts are either damaged or being used for emergency shelters.

According to the News Service of Florida, Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux is asking the state to consider potential creative solutions like email vote-by-mail ballots or combining precincts. While those determinations will ultimately be made after careful consideration by various state and local officials, some data casts light on the upcoming elections. 

In the 11 counties FEMA has designated as needing Individual Assistance (as opposed to just Public Assistance), there are more than 270,000 registered voters. Looking solely at party registration numbers, these voters are fairly “purple” — 43 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat, and 17 percent registered with minor parties or no party at all. 

Voters in these 11 counties typically have a higher turnout than the rest of the state, and a higher frequency of voting on Election Day rather than via mail or early voting. In 2016, 39 percent of voters who cast a ballot in these counties did so on Election Day, compared with 35 percent of voters in all other Florida counties. Another 41 percent voted early, compared with 40 percent elsewhere. This is important because nearly half of a million Floridians have already cast ballots — approximately 4 percent of voters statewide, but just 1 percent of voters in the counties hit hardest by Michael.

These differences may seem slim, but they represent tens of thousands of people, and in a state that is routinely decided by razor-thin margins, those votes can make a big difference. For example, in 2014, Scott beat Charlie Crist by just over 64,000 votes. In these 11 most impacted counties, Scott’s margin over Crist was 39,467 — equivalent to 62 percent of Scott’s entire margin. 

Regardless of your political preferences, a devastating hurricane shouldn’t hinder a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in any election. That’s especially true for the countless people whose homes are damaged or those who have been forced to relocate outside of their community, at least for now.

There’s only a few weeks to go, and while many areas like Mexico Beach and Panama City may not be the same for a long time, one thing is clear: The ability to exercise one’s constitutional right on Election Day should not be among Hurricane Michael’s extraordinary losses. 

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Karen Halperin Cyphers, Ph.D., is a partner and vice president of research with Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee. 

This is Charlie -- Charlie Crist TV ad

In new ad, Charlie Crist says he’s ‘always on call’ for his constituents

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is rolling out a new ad for his re-election campaign touting his commitment to putting constituents first during his time in public office.

The ad, titled “This is Charlie,” features the first term congressman and former Governor answering a number of phone calls while he’s out and about in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“Everywhere I go, it happens,” Crist says, before several clips of him answering his cell phone.

“I give my cell phone number to constituents. After all, you’re my boss. So whether it’s delivering benefits to Florida veterans, voting down the age tax on Florida seniors, or even trying to bring a little more civility and decency to Congress, you know I’m always on call for you,” he says in the ad.

The 30-second spot ends with the first-term Congressman picking up another constituent call.

Crist’s campaign said the new ad will start running on TV stations in the Tampa-St. Petersburg media market today.

“It is truly an honor to serve my neighbors in Pinellas County, representing the community that raised me and working every day on behalf of the people,” Crist said in a press release announcing the ad buy. “I will never stop fighting for my constituents – my bosses – always putting Florida first.”

Crist faces Republican George Buck, a retired academic and firefighter, in his campaign for a second term in CD 13, which covers parts of St. Pete, Seminole, and mid-Pinellas.

As of Aug. 8, Crist had raised nearly $3.1 million for his re-election bid and had about $2.2 million on hand. The veteran politician’s bankroll was large enough at the end of Q2 that he was able to toss $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm supporting the national Democratic Party’s goal of flipping the U.S. House.

Buck, meanwhile, has yet to break the $20,000 mark in total fundraising.

After CD 13’s prior congressman, David Jolly, announced in March that he would not run to take back the purple seat, Crist went from having the odds in his favor to a near-certain victory on Election Day. Political handicappers agree —both the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball list CD 13 as a Democratic lock.

Crist’s ad is below.

Businesses band together against offshore drilling

The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition is officially launching an alliance of coastal business owners and leaders opposed to offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The group of businesses is formally announcing its partnership on October 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach.

The Coalition represents more than 2,000 businesses, chambers of commerce and other associations. The group hopes to create a unified voice against any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and works to ensure no existing drilling moves any further inland.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is expected to speak at the group’s announcement. Robin Miller, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates will also speak.

Efforts under the Trump administration to expand offshore drilling threaten more than 300,000 jobs and $17.5 billion in gross domestic product associated with Florida’s Gulf Coast Fishing, tourism and recreation, according to the Coalition.

The Trump administration announced earlier this year its plans to open almost all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. The Department of the Interior’s a draft five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the agency proposed the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever, the Coalition said.

The group’s members include businesses and advocacy groups from the entire Gulf Coast.

The announcement comes as Gulf Coast businesses battle a different problem — red tide. Statewide efforts are ongoing to mitigate the effects of this year’s algae bloom, which has been one of the worst in recent history. Fish kills and toxins in the air are keeping visitors away from beaches and nearby businesses.

The state of Florida allocated $3 million for businesses affected by red tide and the federal government made small business loans available to help them recover. Researchers are also continuing work trying to understand why red tide occurs and how to prevent or mitigate it.

Ready for business: Charlie Crist opening campaign HQ

Congressman Charlie Crist is launching his official re-election campaign Saturday, and he’s opening a new campaign headquarters at 10 a.m. 

The office is located at 5100 First Avenue North, St. Petersburg.

After the opening, the campaign is hosting a canvassing event with volunteers to knock on doors to help get out the vote in Pinellas County.

At 2 p.m. Crist will host his 2nd Annual Community Block Party and BBQ at Dell Holmes Park with food and games for families.

The campaign will also collect canned goods for Feeding Tampa Bay to help Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael.

Crist is a Democrat representing Florida’s Congressional District 13 covering parts of St. Pete, Seminole and mid-Pinellas. He’s running against Republican George Buck, a retired academic and firefighter.

Buck is facing a tough climb against Crist who is a seasoned campaigner and skilled fundraiser. Crist has raised more than $3 million and has more than $2 million on hand. Buck has raised less than $20,000 and has less than $2,000 on hand.

The district leans slightly Democratic after redistricting shifted boundaries to include downtown St. Pete. Crist defeated former Congressman David Jolly, then a Republican, by just three points in 2014.

Crist and his predecessor have something in common — they both dumped the GOP. Jolly announced earlier this month he had changed his party affiliation from Republican to no party affiliation.

Crist formerly served as Governor as a Republican but switched to a Democrat after leaving office. He wrote a book about his transition called “The Party’s Over.”

The congressman has been spending a lot of his time before officially launching his campaign attending events supporting Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor and Tampa Bay area Democratic state candidates.

There hasn’t been any polling on the Crist-Buck matchup, but long before campaigning for the midterms began a poll showed Crist beating Jolly in a rematch and Jolly has much broader name recognition and fundraising prowess than Buck.

David Jolly officially breaks up with the Republican Party

Former Congressman David Jolly has left the Republican Party, he announced Friday on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

“I left the party about five weeks ago. My wife and I both did,” Jolly said to a shocked panel and cheers from the audience.

Jolly has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party and said late last year that he thought Democrats should take control of the House of Representatives.

“I think we’ll be safer in a divided government,” he said.

Jolly said the tipping point for ditching the GOP came when he and his wife found out they are expecting their first child.

I hope our daughter learns two things from our example. The first is for three years we fought a fight for something we truly believed in that the Republicans could answer to better angels,” Jolly said. “The other lesson I hope our daughter learns [is] there are fights that at times wiser men and women walk away from … At some point, we get to judge the leadership integrity and the moral fiber of our political leaders and we get to say, you made a wrong decision and you need to leave.”

Maher asked Jolly if he was prepared to vote Democrat in the November election, prompting Jolly’s political affiliation announcement. He did not directly answer the question, but implied he may vote blue based on his previous assertion that the House should flip from Republican control.

Maher’s segment centered on bitter partisan divide.

Jolly now has no party affiliation, according to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office.

Barack Obama talked about a post-partisan America but he tried to do it through a two-party system,” Jolly said seeming to imply he either registered with a third party or chose to have no party affiliation. “I don’t think the future is between the two parties.”

Jolly lost his seat in Congress in 2016 to Charlie Crist. Crist also left the Republican Party after leaving the Governor’s mansion and ran against Rick Scott in 2014 for a second term as a Democrat.

Jolly also partnered with Democrat Patrick Murphy on a nationwide tour of college campuses talking about gridlock and dysfunction in Washington D.C. The two were briefly rumored earlier this year to run on a bipartisan ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

Jolly is a regular contributor on the left-leaning MSNBC. He’s the second prominent conservative on that station to leave the GOP. Steve Schmidt, a former top adviser on John McCain’s presidential campaign and a former senior aide to President George W. Bush, announced in June he was leaving the GOP. He called the GOP “fully the party of Trump” in a tweet.

A request for comment from Jolly is pending.

St. Pete and PSTA unveil first electric bus in Tampa Bay

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority won another $1 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase two new electric buses for the agency’s fleet, St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist announced Wednesday.

The grant and purchase will bring PSTA’s fleet of all-electric buses to six by 2020.

The announcement came during a ceremony on the steps of St. Pete City Hall unveiling the region’s first all-electric bus. The no-emission trolley will be used for a downtown St. Pete looper.

That service will be free for riders when it launches Sunday. The city of St. Pete allocated $360,000 a year for operating costs to run the looper.

The service will operate every 15 minutes during the day and evening, seven days a week.

“This is a step towards a greener, cleaner future for Pinellas County,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.“We’ve led the charge as an innovator and a leader in the transit industry, and now we’ve accomplished another milestone by launching the first zero-emission, all-electric bus service in St. Petersburg.”

PSTA purchased two electric buses from Los Angeles-based electric bus manufacturer BYD Inc. as part of its zero-emission vehicle program.

Pinellas County allocated about $600,000 from its BP oil spill settlement fund for a downtown charging station.

The transit agency used its first $1 million FTA grant to purchase the buses. Two more buses are expected to arrive in 2019,

This $1 million federal grant – for the second year in a row – will “ensure they continue leading the charge in providing sustainable transportation options,” Crist said.

Pinellas County Commissioner and PSTA Board Chair Janet Long said the looper launch is a step in the right direction toward sustainable, regional transit.

“This region has been on the short side of getting federal funding for far too long,” Long said.

The service launches as regional transit planners and elected officials work to implement a regional transit line connecting downtown St. Pete to Wesley Chapel along Interstate 275. That plan has not yet been finalized, but PSTA supports its implementation.

Currently transit between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties is only available on limited routes on the Gandy and Howard Frankland Bridges. PSTA recently launched a connection to Tampa International Airport, but stops on that route are limited to the airport and downtown Tampa.

Riders must connect to other locations by transferring to a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus.

Chris King confirmed for St. Pete Chamber’s ‘Popcorn and Politics’

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting Florida Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King during its “Popcorn and Politics” event Thursday. The program runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Pete.

King is scheduled to speak at 6.

The event also features several other local candidates during a casual meet and greet reception.

Incumbent Senate District 24 Republican Jeff Brandes will be there alongside his Democratic challenger, environmental scientist Lindsay Cross. Brandes holds a commanding lead in the most recent polls over Cross and is massively out-raising her. Cross is battling from behind after jumping into the race late in the game following the former candidate, Carrie Pilon, abruptly withdrawing from the race.

House District 69 candidate Jennifer Webb, the Democrat in that race, is also confirmed. Her opponent, attorney Ray Blacklidge, has not confirmed whether he will attend. Webb holds a double-digit lead over Blacklidge, according to a recent poll.

George Buck, the Republican challenging Congressman Charlie Crist for the Congressional District 13 seat, is scheduled to attend.  Buck faces an uphill battle against Crist. The district now favors Democrats after its boundaries were redrawn to include parts of downtown St. Pete.

Due to votes in the U.S. House this week, Crist will not attend the event.

Two Pinellas County Commission candidates are going. Republican Kathleen Peters and her Democratic opponent Amy Kedron both confirmed their attendance. Peters is favored in that race for the mid-Pinellas district that covers some of the beaches and Seminole. Kedron took a hit to her campaign after the Tampa Bay Times reporter she called the police on one of its reporters who was trying to interview her in public space.

The two are running for the late John Morroni’s seat after he passed away earlier this year.

Clearwater Republican Chris Latvala will also attend. Latvala’s challenger, Dawn Douglas, won’t be joining him. Douglas is a teacher at Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater.

St. Pete Dems put ‘Trump disciple’ Ron DeSantis on notice over health care

Local Democrats are rallying behind gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, while calling out his conservative opponent Ron DeSantis for siding with Republicans in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Andrew Gillum and Chris King will look out for St. Pete,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said during a rally in front of a community health center on the Southside. “They will look out for everyday Floridians and not special interests or insurance companies. They are not creatures of Congress or disciples of Donald [Trump].”

House Republicans have tried 100 times to repeal, water down, de-authorize or defund former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, according to a website that tracks such measures. That site lists DeSantis as the sponsor of six proposals to roll back protections under the law.

About 50 residents and community activists showed up to condemn DeSantis’s health care voting record including a group of nurses supporting the Gillum/King ticket.

“I feel that the most important thing is the Republican repeal of Obamacare as it relates to pre-existing illnesses,” said registered nurse Anticus Jones. “An example is hypertension. It is easily treatable, but what happens is if it goes untreated or improperly treated, that person runs the risk of having a more complex illness that may exacerbate to something like diabetes or kidney failure and ultimately result in an untimely death for those patients.”

In a television ad released Tuesday supporting Gillum and other Democrats running for cabinet positions, Democrats blast DeSantis for implying that sick patients without health insurance should just go to the emergency room.

I would say though, and people who supported Obamacare used to this point a lot before it passed, there really is no lack of health care. If people really need it, if they show up to the emergency room, they do get care,” DeSantis said in a March 2017 interview by CNN’s Erin Burnett, according to a CNN transcript of that segment.

“We know what happens when people don’t have access to affordable health care. They go to the emergency room, which is the most expensive form of health care or worse they go without care and we all end up paying more on the back end,” Kriseman said.

The ad, which doesn’t directly mention Gillum but includes a disclaimer that his campaign approved the message, asks how DeSantis can “lead Florida when he leaves Floridians behind?”

“They’re called pre-existing conditions and everybody knows somebody who has one,” the ad says. “But in Congress, Ron DeSantis demanded that any new health law eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He’d let insurance companies deny them coverage.”

Kristen King, the wife of Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King, lamented during the St. Pete rally that before the Affordable Care Act, being pregnant was considered a pre-existing condition.

“I can say with total clarity that we will not be going back to the days when being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition,” King said.

It’s an issue that hits home for King. One of her daughters has severe food allergies that can cause anaphylaxes and is also considered a pre-existing condition.

The group of Gillum backers also support the Tallahassee Mayor because he would work to expand Medicaid in Florida. Under the Republican-controlled Legislature and Rick Scott administration, Florida declined federal funds to expand Medicaid to 800,000 Floridians.

While a Gillum administration would be hard-pressed to make that happen if the makeup of the Legislature doesn’t change after this November’s midterm election, Congressman Charlie Crist, a former Florida Governor, said Gillum would retain some authority to protect Floridians from bad health care laws by using his veto power, something which Crist said he has direct experience.

Crist also hopes Democrats will unseat Republicans in November to even the balance between the two parties. He nodded to Lindsay Cross, the Democrat running against Republican Jeff Brandes in the Florida Senate district covering St. Pete.

“The stakes could not be higher in this election,” Crist said. “To have someone who is running for Governor who doesn’t support covering people with pre-existing conditions, particularly in a state like Florida, is simply unconscionable.”

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