Florida has had to deal with many crises in the last several decades–everything from catastrophic hurricanes and refugee influxes to the crippling economic effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Florida has been lucky to have had adults at the helm to steer her through those turbulent waters. For example, Governor Jeb Bush immediately convened a special session after the attacks on 9/11 to deal with the impending economic effects on the state. Targeted tax cuts and other measures were taken to offset the expected drop in tourism, revenue and the resultant economic slowdown, and Florida weathered that crisis relatively unscathed.
These past four years, on the other hand, paint a totally different picture. Florida was led by a blindly ambitious career politician who has never stuck with any of his several statewide political positions for more than one term. Instead of tackling the issues he was entrusted to confront by the people he professes ad nauseum to represent, Charlie Crist treated each and every position he has ever held as just another step in his perpetual career climb, leaving those tough decisions to others or subsequent officeholders. These past four years prove that Charlie Crist treated the honor of Florida’s Governorship no differently. Proof of his dereliction can be found by merely comparing the state’s current economic, unemployment, and even population statistics with those four short years ago.
So as Florida elevates Rick Scott as its 45th Governor this week, and in celebration of the fact that the adults have regained control of Florida’s affairs, I wish to take the opportunity to explain my years-long contempt for outgoing governor Charlie Crist and why I felt it was necessary to expose him and hold him accountable the way I have these past several years.
CHARLIE FOR GOVERNOR!
Ironically, I was one of the first in Miami-Dade County to sport a “Charlie Crist for Governor” sticker on my car in 2005. I had the opportunity to meet with then-Attorney General Crist on several occasions at Republican gatherings and events. In 2004, I even drove Crist to the airport in the car that today dons a “See Ya Charlie” sticker. I always found him to be an extremely warm, friendly guy and one who made people feel important, especially when he remembered their names. As for his primary opponent, Tom Gallagher, I did not have much interaction with him. I did not dislike him, but found him to be a bit standoffish. Because I considered both men philosophical equals and I had a better personal rapport with Charlie, he initially became my choice for Governor in 2006.
That all changed, however, when I became a Legislative Aide to a state representative. That gig landed me in Tallahassee during the 60-day legislative session in 2006. During that time, I witnessed the divide between conservatives and RINOs in the Legislature. The conservatives were essentially all with Gallagher and the RINOs with Crist. Although I’m not necessarily one to condemn someone for their associations alone, I witnessed firsthand how Crist’s allies derailed good legislation or otherwise stood in the way of good legislation. One such Crist ally was Senator Alex Villalobos, who last year flaunted his true colors by endorsing Crist for Senate, Sink for Governor, and Gelber for Attorney General. I became concerned these characters would be empowered during a Crist administration… but I digress.
That, coupled with other things I experienced and witnessed made me reconsider my support for Crist, and so I switched over to Gallagher.
As we all know, Crist went on to win the primary. By then, however, I had seen enough to discourage me from supporting him even in the general election. I figured that a Democrat governor with a Republican Legislature would be less dangerous than a RINO who might otherwise enjoy more latitude to pass equally bad legislation. So I went ahead and privately voted against him but did not bother to campaign for, or otherwise promote his opponent so as to not violate my Republican Executive Committee loyalty oath.
Nevertheless, Crist won, so I took a step back and gave him a chance, albeit reluctantly.
The act that sealed Crist’s fate in my eyes was his selection of Jim Greer as Chairman of the RPOF. As someone who was a grassroots volunteer since his teenage years who later worked for the RPOF, I had institutional knowledge of the party and took offense that the incoming governor would have the hubris to appoint someone whose only qualification was being a crony of his (seems this would be an ongoing theme in the Crist administration).
I had no problem with previous governors “tapping” someone to be chairman, since they traditionally respected party leaders enough to choose someone from among the committee who was trusted by its members. Jim Greer had never served on the committee he was selected by Crist to lead, and the State Committeeman from his county even had to resign his post so Greer could qualify to run. I was there when the state committeeman from his county begrudgingly announced to the State Committeeman’s Caucus in December of 2006 that the governor had asked him to step down so Greer could be the next chairman.
The election took place in January 2007 at the Annual Meeting. At that point, I did not have anything against Jim Greer personally, other than being party to the entire process by which he was being “selected” by Crist and company to head the RPOF. But at the Annual Meeting, Greer began to show symptoms of what would eventually be his downfall.
The money Greer raised for his chairman’s race was seemingly spent almost entirely on a reception the night before the election. After a gaggle of politicians and Republican Club presidents gave their rousing endorsement speeches, Greer gave a speech of his own followed by a buffoonish performance of Elvis songs with the hired band. The lack of class and elegance made me wonder to what depths the Republican Party of Florida had sunk.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who shared that view since incumbent Chairman, Carole-Jean Jordan felt it was necessary to stand up to this madness and run for reelection. Despite raising and spending no money for her reelection effort and having the new governor literally endorse her opponent from the floor, she came within 7 votes of defeating Crist’s sideshow court jester Jim Greer. I have always said that Carole-Jean Jordan deserves our respect and admiration for having the courage to challenge Crist, Greer and their enablers.
Greer moved quickly to change things at the party. He fired many staffers and replaced them with Crist loyalists. He also canceled the straw poll scheduled to take place at the RPOF Convention later that year. I personally believe he did it so John McCain–the one candidate RINO enough and unprincipled enough to consider Crist as his VP choice–wouldn’t suffer an embarrassing, and potentially game-changing defeat, since many grassroots Republican activists were upset at him over his amnesty proposal at the time.
Additionally, Crist got the Legislature to insert language into an election bill that pads the RPOF State Committee with additional members appointed by the governor, thus diluting county grassroots power and safeguarding against future close chairman races. The bill also included language that would allow a state politician to run for federal office without having to resign his state position. This change in law would have come especially handy for Crist had he been–oh, I don’t know–tapped for VP, maybe?
To say that Crist went on to embrace or otherwise support an anti-conservative agenda would be a gross understatement. In addition to the fact that many of us who were early Rubio supporters were exiled from our own party by Crist, Greer, and their enablers–and mocked for supporting a candidate “with no chance” at winning–these are some of the things Crist did to earn the ire of many conservatives and the praise of Democratic State Senator David Aronberg as “one of the best Democratic Governors Florida has ever had”:
- Socializing Florida’s property insurance system by making the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation a “public option” for people to choose instead of private coverage. This not only violates every free market principle, but it also places the state one hurricane away from bankruptcy because Crist also forced Citizens to lower its rates artificially and against all tenets of actuarial soundness. If Citizens goes broke, Florida taxpayers will have to bail it out. But this doesn’t matter to a politician who never sticks around for more than one term.
- Restoring felons voting rights, which dramatically increased Democrat voters in swing-state Florida.
- Pulling RPOF funding from the campaign to ban Same-Sex Marriage after he signed the petition supporting the same-sex marriage ban amendment.
- Campaigning against gambling expansion, yet expanding gambling dramatically. I’m not debating the merits of gambling, but rather exposing and condemning yet another one of Crist’s lies and flip-flops.
- Sucking up to leftist enviros like Sheryl Crow, Robert Kennedy and Castro sympathizer actor Robert Redford to Advance their leftwing global warming hysteria; Publicly crediting Al Gore and his discredited movie with raising his own global warming awareness; implementing through executive order California-style emissions standards and a Cap-and-Trade scheme that will only serve to exacerbate Florida’s economic problems. All this made him the Trotskyite Left’s favorite pet Republican, but then he backstabbed even them in an attempt to fool Republican primary voters with short memory spans.
- Lying to Giuliani when he told him he’d endorse him for president, instead endorsing John McCain the weekend before the presidential primary in Florida. Considering Romney and McCain were in a statistical dead heat in the polls leading up to the election, Crist’s endorsement of McCain essentially handed the Republican nomination to the most liberal Republican in the field of contenders.
- Sitting on his hands after he was not chosen for VP and allowing the state to go for Obama. In fact, after consulting with the DEMOCRAT leader of the Florida House–not the Republican Speaker or Senate President, mind you–Crist extended early voting hours, which clearly helped the Democrats throughout the ticket.
- Squandering the opportunity to tilt the Supreme Court to the right, and instead appointing liberal supreme court justices such as James Perry and Jorge Labarga, who both later voted to strike Amendment 9 relating to ObamaCare off the ballot.
- Figuratively and literally embracing the phony Obama Stimulus, which conferred it the false illusion of bipartisan support. Some perspective: had Crist been a U.S. representative, he would have been the ONLY Republican to have voted for the stimulus and only one of four in the Senate (along with Snowe, Collins, and Specter, who at the time was still a “Republican”).SIDE NOTE: When then-Attorney General Crist was campaigning for governor in 2006, he and his campaign manager George LeMieux decided to snub the sitting Republican President by not joining him and other statewide Republican candidates for a rally in Pensacola. Yet, while Republicans nationwide were fighting Obama and his stimulus proposal, Crist came out to support Obama and his stimulus proposal.
- Permitting Jim Greer to run amok. Despite countless Republican activists, party officers (and more party officers), donors, (and more donors), elected officials, and concerned Republicans calling for his resignation, Jim Greer dug in his heels and defiantly refused to go for months. Jim Greer himself validated my belief when he confirmed that Crist had instructed him not to resign. Let’s be clear: if it was up to Crist and his enablers, Greer would STILL be there destroying the RPOF. Why? because it’s about them and not about anyone else.
So if it was always about them to the detriment of the party, its candidates, and its principles, why should the rest of us follow them off the cliff like a bunch of lemmings?
These are all acts of treachery that Charlie Crist committed BEFORE he switched parties. This is why I reject the notion that Charlie Crist suddenly became a traitor to the Republican Party the day he switched to a No-Party-Affiliation candidate and that everyone who supported him up until that moment had no idea he would do such a thing.
Can anyone really claim deception? Anyone?
Senator LeMieux, put your hand down. That was a rhetorical question.
Anyway, the answer is no. No one can claim deception. All the signs were there. Charlie Crist was a back-stabber opportunist long before April 29, 2010.
A true philosophical conservative could NEVER support a candidate who did even half of the things that Charlie Crist did prior to his party switch–much less in a Republican primary that provides a clear alternative.
Moreover, no Republican–conservative, moderate, or otherwise–with the party’s best interests at heart could nor should support a candidate who would allow his own handpicked chairman to continue humiliating the party and living high off its coffers merely to continue having one of his cronies in such a position.
These are some of the reasons I have utter contempt for the back-stabber Charlie Crist and a select few who enabled him to undermine the principles that I hold dear and destroy the party that I have given so much of my time and energy to since I was 17 years-old.
Courage is rarely convenient. “Abandoning” Crist once he explicitly and literally abandoned the Republican Party on April 29, 2010 is hardly the definition of courage. That was the convenient, politically expedient thing to do.
On the other hand, putting ones self in political harm’s way and denouncing Crist and Greer while they were both still in power and in a position to continue damaging our party: that’s courage.
This is why I will continue to support candidates for public and party offices that have a proven record of commitment to the party under whose banner they run and the principles that unite us under that banner–courageous candidates who have a record of doing what’s right for the party, including challenging and standing up to the kind of destructive and oftentimes treacherous behavior I have outlined here–not those who “toted the party [boss's] line” when the party was hijacked by a bunch of traitors and criminals with no sense of principle.
I salute those party leaders and elected officials who had the courage to stand up to Crist and Greer early on. The party and its members throughout Florida owe them a debt of gratitude.
As for Charlie Crist, Jim Greer, and his enablers, they leave their high positions of power worse off and in some cases disgraced. May they serve as a lasting example of what not to do–or tolerate–in politics.