The Florida Council of 100 canceled a planned speech Thursday morning by Charlie Crist, but a council spokesman and Gov. Rick Scott denied allegations it was done at the request of Scott, who also spoke to the group.
The Council of 100 is a group of business leaders that promotes economic growth.
Scott and Crist were scheduled to speak a few hours apart, but the organization asked Crist not to speak, according to a statement from its chairman, Steven T. Halverson, head of The Haskell Co.
The Crist campaign, based on reports in the Miami Herald, accused Scott of seeking the cancellation.
Scott denied that in comments to reporters at an appearance in Tampa on Thursday morning.
Later in the day, however, he declined to give a direct answer to the same question when asked by a television reporter, and his campaign spokesman also gave no direct answer in response to a Tampa Tribune inquiry.
Crist told reporters at the meeting in Orlando on Thursday, “I was invited to speak several weeks ago … and 48 hours ago I was sort of unceremoniously uninvited. I can’t help but believe it was Rick Scott. I don’t think he wants to hear what I have to say. I’m telling the truth about him.”
Halverson issued his statement via email through a press spokesman, saying:
“The Florida Council of 100 is a non-partisan organization dedicated to sound public policy for a better Florida. As our meeting schedule developed late yesterday (Wednesday), both Governor Scott and former Governor Crist were scheduled for the same morning. We did not want our policy meetings to become a political event so we asked Governor Crist to not address the group. We invited him to participate in our meetings and apologized for any inconvenience we may have caused.”
Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair emailed a statement saying, “We hope Charlie Crist speaks in every corner of the state. The more he speaks, the clearer it becomes that Crist is only focused on talk, while Rick Scott is focused on action. Crist’s record of failure is a great contrast with Governor Scott’s record of success.”
According to the schedule for the event, published by the Herald and distributed by the Crist campaign, Scott was to speak shortly after the 8 a.m. opening of the event and Crist at 11 a.m., following several other speakers.
“It’s unfortunate that Rick Scott is apparently using every ounce of political pressure he has left to stifle healthy dialogue about the future of our state,” said Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate in an email.
The Crist campaign released the speech he had planned to give. It was a full-fledged campaign speech, criticizing Scott’s economic development work, cuts to public education early in Scott’s tenure, big-spending political campaigns and “extremist” politics, and announcing policy initiatives, some previously unpublicized:
• Reversing recent cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program and creating “an expansive new program that will incentivize students to stay in school and earn their graduate degree in key science, technology, engineering and medical programs – if they agree to stay here and work in Florida.”
• Efforts to put control of the state university system more firmly in the hands of the Board of Governors
• An attempt to “renew the effort to create a real high-speed rail and mass transit system.”
• Creating a position of state trade and development representative to expand foreign markets for Florida exports.
• Efforts to “make the Space Coast the undisputed center for commercial space.”
He said Scott has failed to produce the 1.7 million jobs he said during his 2010 campaign he would create.
Crist said in the speech Scott’s economic policy consists of “flying in his private plane to hold press conferences to tout job growth that he had literally nothing to do with,” and that Scott “leads by embracing the ideological fringes, taking care of his friends, bullying his opponents, hiding from the public and press.”