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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Is Crist contemplating a political comeback in 2014?

Charlie Crist isn't saying he plans to run for governor in 2014, but he isn't saying he won't. Read into that what you will. "I don't have any idea," he said Wednesday when I asked if he plans to run as a Democrat against Rick Scott. "I am very much enjoying working in the private sector." In the ever-nuanced world of political speak, saying he doesn't have an idea could be a clue. His stock response in the past has simply been to say how much he likes life as Charlie The Lawyer for the Morgan & Morgan firm. He hasn't added the caveat about having no idea, which means he has thought of running. Maybe.
We play these games because there is elevated interest in Crist's future plans. He wrote an op-ed piece Sunday in the Washington Post, criticizing the purge of illegal voters initiated by Scott. Crist, a registered independent, used words like "un-American" to describe the governor's push to remove would-be voters who can't prove their citizenship. He called it "mean-spirited." That prompted a counter-punch by Florida's Republican Party, with a news release titled "The Two Faces of Charlie Crist," pointing out differences between his rhetoric and his record. "I must have struck a nerve," Crist said. Polls show that Floridians strongly support the purge, but one poll about two months ago also showed Crist beating Scott handily in a hypothetical 2014 race for governor. Crist spoke up because of "a concern about the democratic process and the right to vote in a fair and honest election." "They have shortened the time frame for early voting," he said. "They have made it more difficult to do absentee voting. Your signature has to be an absolute match on your ID or they can reject your ballot. My mother had a stroke last November and it's hard for her to write now. Her signature wouldn't match, and they would reject her." Crist was elected governor as a Republican in 2006. He bypassed the chance for a second term when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. After losing the primary to Marco Rubio, Crist ran for the Senate as an independent. Republicans shunned him. If he runs again and wins, how would he work with a Legislature almost certain to be solidly Republican? "You would have to strive to work together to find common interests for the good of Florida," he said. "There are reasonable minds in the House and Senate." Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich of Sunrise is the only declared Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, so the reaction of Democrats to Crist's op-ed piece was telling. "I heard from a lot of them," he said. "They were very pleased with the sentiment. But I heard from Republicans, too. Floridians are a decent bunch of people and I think a lot of them are worried about the suppression of voter rights." Oh, and Crist's wife, Carole? She changed her registration last fall from Republican to Democrat. You take your clues where you find them.


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