The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents most state employees, is staking $1 million on the hopes that former Gov. Charlie Crist will beat incumbent Gov. Rick Scott in November.
AFSCME joined other government-worker labor organizations in endorsing Crist on Tuesday.
AFSCME Florida president Jeanette Wynn Crist told Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat that Crist’s position on state employment issues as governor from 2007-11 are in stark contrast to conservative Gov. Rick Scott’s policies.
The union’s top issue with Scott is a 3 percent fee now imposed on members of the Florida Retirement System, something previously funded fully by state, counties and local government participation.
As a Republican, Scott has also actively promoted privatization of government services, a move that AFSCME and other government unions strongly oppose.
“We haven’t had a good experience with this governor,” Wynn said in a recent interview with the Democrat. “We’re not going to ask employees to support someone who has never supported them.”
Union support comes because of contrasting priorities between Scott and Crist on education, health care and taxes – not just issues of state employment — said AFSCME national political director Brian Weeks.
“Gov. Rick Scott has the wrong priorities,” said Weeks, who is based in Washington. “Scott’s crusade to cut education, block access to affordable health care and stifle job growth while kowtowing to his big-business buddies is moving Florida in the wrong direction.
“Charlie Crist understands that middle class families are getting squeezed and he will prioritize them, not just the wealthy and larger corporations.”
Scott endorses the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which he otherwise opposed, but the Legislature continues to refuse to fund the expansion. AFSCME petitioned unsuccessfully against his proposed corporate tax cuts – which have become the foundation of his job-creation policies.
AFSCME is a stalwart supporter of the Florida Democratic Party. Even though membership is low at the state level, the union still represents tens of thousands of state workers and laborers.
State employees in the Tallahassee have regularly voted Democratic in statewide races, and are openly hostile to Scott.
Many of them booed and waved “Pink Slip Rick” signs as the governor marched in the Springtime Tallahassee parade, only six months after he took office.
“Union bosses endorsed Charlie Crist,” said Scott campaign spokesperson Greg Blair. “In other news, water is wet.”
Crist, who became a Democrat in late 2012, served in the state Senate as a Republican in 1992, remaining with the GOP as education commissioner, attorney general and later, as governor. He had a brief fling as an independent in 2010, when polls had him losing to then-candidate Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary.
The $1 million to Crist’s campaign is, so far, his largest donation. The “Charlie Crist for Florida” committee raised $10.4 million through July 18. However, it is nowhere near Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” campaign organization, with a total of $32.8 million raised to date.
Scott received two $2 million donations from the Republican Governors Association dated July 2 (for a total of $4 million). The Democratic Governors Association gave Crist two $500,000 contributions on two different dates in 2014 (totalling $1 million).
Scott’s Let’s Get to Work already had $27 million coming from his Electioneering Communication Organizations earlier in the year.
Crist is facing Nan Rich, the former state Senate Minority Leader, in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary.
AFSCME is committed to running “a massive grassroots membership mobilization effort throughout the state” to boost turnout for Crist,” Weeks said.