During this weekend, two interesting things happened in the world of Florida politics.
The first was an interesting appearance at Saturday’s Kennedy King Dinner at the Tampa Convention Center. While Newark Mayor Cory Booker was rallying the troops to help President Obama win, another big name was working the political circuit – former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
The former governor, who still considers himself an independent, has become a welcome guest to many Democratic functions in the past few months. So how did Crist, an independent, get into this shindig for party faithful?
His wife, Carole, registered as a Dem last year, after years of being a registered Republican.
“I’m so excited — this is my first Democratic dinner,” Carole Crist told TBO.com’s William March. She admitted that reason she jumped ship from the GOP was President Barack Obama. “I was very impressed with the president.”
The couple was the center of a lot of attention, with Mrs. Crist admitting she is still meeting the players in the party. However, both her and her husband made sure to get their names out there. “I’m the Democrat, and he’s my guest.”
Considering the rumors swirling about Crist possibly running for governor in 2014, Saturday’s dinner appeared to be a prime opportunity to test the waters. More interesting is that this comes on the heels of numerous surveys indicating that Crist could give 2010’s nominee, Alex Sink, a serious run for her money in the primaries. A recently released poll by Stpetepolls.org shows Crist with a huge approval advantage over Sink, 61% to 25%.
South Florida’s Nan Rich has already announced she plans to run in 2014, and rumors continue to circulate about the possibility of former Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer possibly running. Add to that questions about the political future for former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who has been lauded for her recent work with righting the ship at the scandal-plagued Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, and the field of viable candidates appears to have gone from barren to crowded in a matter of weeks.
The second interesting thing to happen involved Governor Rick Scott’s new Chief of Staff, Adam Hollingsworth. Over the summer. Scott hired the one-time lobbyist to help course-correct an administration which had been rocked by numerous scandals, miscues and outright gaffes. Hollingsworth spoke to a group during a breakfast meeting on Friday with the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, according to a story written by David Royse of the Florida News Service. According to the story, several lobbyists have complained in recent months about lack of access to the governor. Hollingsworth assured them at the breakfast meeting about how the administration staff will listen to them, but reminded them they won’t always get their way.
“We’re not going to offer favoritism, we’re going to offer fairness,” he told the lobbyists.
What makes this interesting is that Scott, considered an outsider when he ran for governor in 2010, has worked diligently to bring Tallahassee insiders into his fold to smooth out some issues in his own office. The governor has had to deal with matters ranging from questions surrounding conflicts of interests related to his wife’s partial ownership of a company contracted by the state for drug testing of welfare recipients, to the myriad scandals involving Citizens Insurance, to Scott’s own refusal to implement key provisions of the now-ruled-constitutional Health Care Reform Act.
The biggest scandal of all resulted in hiring of Hollingsworth when Steve MacNamara resigned in May following reports of his steering no-bid government contracts to politically connected companies. The scandal cast a shadow on Scott’s administration, one which continues to dog the governor in the polls.
Scott’s latest approval numbers from Fox News show that only 39% of voters think he’s doing a favorable job. Independent voters, considered key to winning Florida in the Presidential Election, think even lower of Scott, with only 31% seeing his job performance as favorable.