“So Long, Charlie?”
Many of us in Florida first met Charlie in 1998, when as a state senator, he fell on the sword and ran against Bob Graham for the United States Senate. Graham, the popular former governor and two-term senator, was a lock to win re-election and the GOP needed someone to step up and run what everyone knew was a losing battle to unseat Graham. That someone was Charlie Crist.
From there Charlie ran successfully for Florida Education Commissioner, until that post became an appointed position after a change to the Florida constitution.
In 2002 he was elected as Florida’s 35th Attorney General, an office that is considered by many to be a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion. He fended off a conservative challenge by Tom Gallagher to secure the GOP nomination for governor in 2006, where Charlie tied himself to outgoing Governor Jeb Bush and praised Bush as “the best governor the state of Florida ever had”. All those chips Charlie collected from that 1998 campaign were called in as he was sworn in as Florida’s 44th Governor.
Things began to fall apart for Charlie in 2009 when Senator Mel Martinez announced his resignation for the U.S. Senate. Charlie, sensing an opportunity to ascend to a higher office, appointed his “maestro” George LeMieux to keep the seat warm for himself. As we all know by now, that did not go according to his plan, as Marco Rubio began to expose the real Charlie to Florida voters. Charlie being Charlie, he abruptly left the GOP, and began styling himself as a populist hoping to tap into the growing voter apathy against Washington insiders.
On November 4th the people of Florida handed Charlie his second consecutive state-wide loss, re-electing Governor Rick Scott. Scott’s re-election wasn’t so much an endorsement of his record, but more of a repudiation of the chameleon-like tactics of Charlie. It was hard for many voters to understand the drastic shift in what Charlie believed, other than it being nothing more than a blatant grasp of a desperate politician to stay in the public eye.
Will this be the final chapter in his political obituary, or will Charlie salvage his public career and reinvent himself yet again? I for one hope he is finished, however the landscape of the Democrat Party of Florida would suggest otherwise. Other than Senator Bill Nelson, there is no other Democrat with the name recognition and clout that Charlie wields. Charlie showed how difficult it can be to win elective office without standing on principles and trying to please everyone. The people of Florida deserved better. Goodbye Charlie, it was nice knowing you.
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