Charlie Crist: Man Without a Party

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Charlie Crist: Man Without a Party

September 15, 2012

Originally published September 13, 2012

By: Paula Dockery – Florida Voices

Charlie Crist: Man Without a Party

There was a lot of buzz about former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist speaking at the Democratic National Convention, given that he’s served in numerous elected offices over the past few decades as a Republican.

After one term, Crist left the governor’s office in 2010 with support across party lines. Affable and exceedingly polite, his door was open to legislators in both parties. He was considered a moderate, in part because of his measured positions on education and environmental issues, and his willingness to include the minority party in his decision-making.

Instead of running for a second term, Crist opted to run for the U.S. Senate. His bipartisan support and non-combative nature made him an attractive general election candidate for people weary of political gridlock. But his willingness to veto unpopular legislation passed by his Republican-led legislature made him vulnerable in the primary. And indeed, he drew an opponent, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Republican loyalists were disappointed with Crist’s propensity for compromise and cooperation, traits once considered admirable. But as long as he held the power of the governor’s office, and controlled the party’s finances and organization, they fell in line. As a result, Crist was able to amass a large campaign war chest.

But once the legislative session ended — and bills were either signed or vetoed — his power began to wane, along with his hold of the party’s resources. During this same period, his hand-picked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer, was mired in legal and financial problems for questionable practices. Rubio, then a dark horse, benefitted from Crist’s woes with the hard-core party loyalists.

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