Ever the chameleon, Crist could be changing colors again
By Chris Ingram
Now that former Rep. Bill Young has been interred, expect a flurry of political jockeying to replace him. Young’s son, brother, and wife, former Mayor Rick Baker, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, and former County Commissioner Neil Brickfield are among Republicans who have been mentioned as possible candidates to succeed him. Former CFO and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is the leading Democrat mentioned. She is joined by talk of county commissioner and former state Senator Charlie Justice, and state Representative Janet Long as potential candidates, among others (Justice said on Friday he would not run).
Lost in most of the chatter is attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who was the 2012 Democratic nominee and has continued to campaign for the job even before Young’s retirement announcement and subsequent death.
Yet despite posting the strongest challenge to Young in twenty years, she hasn’t won any bonus points with establishment Democrats who care more about winning than rewarding Ehrlich for not just being a political opportunist.
Who the candidates will be, and when the election will be held remains unclear. Florida law is vague about the date of a special election to replace a member of the House of Representatives. Unlike replacing a member of the U.S. Senate, vacancies in the House of Representatives cannot be appointed. So there will be an election, we just don’t know when the governor will set it.
While the rest of the political intelligentsia chatter about a Baker versus Sink race, or all the “what ifs?” concerning Young’s various family members, one person not so frequently mentioned whom I think may very well run, is former Governor Charlie “Too Tan” Crist. Sound crazy? Perhaps, but in politics, anything is possible.
When he’s not pitching his skills as a trial lawyer to take your slip and fall accident or parking lot fender-bender case to court, Crist is said to be forming a campaign team for another run for governor. I haven’t ever bought the notion that Crist would run for governor again — and have speculated it’s been an act all along that he would, in order for Crist to maintain a high profile and build up his fundraising base so he can run against Bill Young. That’s what I expected to happen. Now that young has died, Crist can run in a much easier open seat and land himself a job as Congressman for the next twenty years if he wants it.
Yesterday he unveiled an odd campaign website that looked like a typical candidate’s website, but it was missing two things. Those two things were: an office being sought, and a required “paid for by” disclaimer.
A disclaimer stating “Paid for by Charlie Crist personally” was later added, but the site still lacks a statement of office being sought.
As for Crist’s odd campaign website, he could be appearing coy for one of two reasons. Conventional wisdom suggests he’s holding off announcing until next month when the state’s new campaign contribution limits jump from $500 per person to $3,000.
Or, his lack of transparency could be because he doesn’t intend to run for governor – and is continuing to play Florida Democrats and the media with fake posturing – as he plans a run for Young’s congressional seat.
The latter of the two is what I think is going on. I’ve held this view for some time and base it on a few key considerations.
First, Crist gave up an easy reelection (and twenty-years of political capital) to run for the Senate in 2010. Why would he now want to go back to Tallahassee where he would be a weak Democrat governor with a Republican dominated legislature who can’t stand him?
Second, Crist’s wife is reported to loathe Tallahassee. She’s a chic New York kind of gal who thinks the southern charm of Tallahassee is best for romanticized fiction novels, not for the governor’s sophisticated wife. Though nowhere near as classy as NYC, D.C. is apparently trendy enough to satisfy.
Third, Charlie Crist is damaged goods based on his last statewide election. You can forget about all the current polls, because Rick Scott has yet to spend a dime to remind voters what a flip-flopping opportunist Crist is. And don’t forget about Jim Greer, and stories alleging prostitutes at a fundraiser Charlie attended in the Bahamas. All this will come up in a statewide campaign if the Tan Man decides to run against Scott.
Finally, remember that in his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, Crist only won four counties (Broward, Leon, Palm Beach, and his home county of Pinellas). These are not the numbers of a winner.
While Crist may be the best, (if not only) hope the Democrats have of defeating Rick Scott, taking on Scott and his money would be political suicide for Crist, whose image rehabilitation and attempt to build a new political base is still underway. And even if he didn’t have unlimited millions, Scott would still be in the catbird seat against Crist due to Crist’s lack of a solid base, and because he will motivate Republicans to campaign for Scott.
At the end of the day, Charlie Crist is far too pragmatic to take on Scott. Like most politicians, he is averse to anything that is risky, and is at his heart an opportunist. Plus, Charlie rarely sits still in the same office. He prefers to jump around and mark different “offices held” from his bucket list. So running for Bill Young’s congressional seat would be a safe bet, and another office held to scratch off; and besides, it will keep the Misses happy.
And don’t ever forget, Charlie Crist is a chameleon who associates himself with far worse.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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