Charlie Crist vs. GOP
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The stream of headlines coming out of Florida in recent weeks has catalogued a growing divide between Governor Charlie Crist and the state Republicans he once led. Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent after struggling in Florida's Republican primary, has infuriated his former GOP colleagues on a range of state policies.
This week, Crist suggested in an interview with The Miami Herald that he might veto an abortion bill that is a priority for Republicans, who control both houses of the state Legislature. The bill, which would require women seeking an abortion to submit to and pay for an ultrasound, even if it is not medically necessary, is "punitive" and "mean-spirited," Crist said .
In the same interview, Crist described his decision to run for the Senate as an independent as a "joyous" one that has liberated him as governor — words that are unlikely to please Republicans, either.
The latest fallout between the two sides touches the third rail of electoral politics: redistricting. Crist has endorsed two proposals that would "attempt to ban incumbency protection when the Republican-controlled Legislature rewrites the political boundaries starting next year," The Herald reported . The paper called the move "proof that (Crist) is flexing his muscles as a candidate not tethered to a party platform."
"Some people have gotten so rigid about their adherence to the party before doing what's right for the people, it's hurting our country," Crist said.
The animosity between Crist and Republicans has escalated dramatically since his first major break with the GOP — even before he switched to an independent — when the governor stood with teachers' unions and vetoed sweeping legislation that would have tied teachers' pay to student achievement and eliminated their tenure.
Since then, he has clashed with the GOP on issues ranging from the state budget — which he contends is too costly — to offshore oil drilling, which Crist is seeking to ban with a constitutional amendment in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has sold an oil painting of Crist on e-Bay for $7,700. "Now that Charlie Crist has deserted his post as elected head of the Republican Party," GOP officials said after the sale , "we are trying to clean up the mess left behind."