Charlie Crist casts early primary ballot

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“Today I voted for Charlie Crist,” said Charlie Crist.

Those were the first words out of former Florida Governor Charlie Crist today after casting his early vote at the downtown St. Pete early voting location. He wouldn’t say what or who else he voted for.

Crist is running to get his old job back against his primary opponent, South Florida Democrat Nan Rich.

“What matters to me is hopefully being the nominee and that’s all I’m focused on,” Crist said after casting a vote for himself along side St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Not so fast Charlie.

Crist has repeatedly refused to debate Rich. According to a report last month in the Tampa Bay Times, Rich ripped her sole opponent in the primary for refusing to debate her despite repeated attempts. She likened the former Republican to a ghost and lamented that if he wins it’ll be like to Republicans running for Governor in the General Election.

Crist has also sent out mailers criticizing Scott. He’s run TV spots doing the same.

And even though he said today his eye is on being the Democratic nominee for governor, he took some shots at Scott just seconds later.

“We had the opportunity to educate the public about Rick Scott’s cuts to education,” Scott said in response to a question about using a school bus for a campaign tour. “As you know, about $1.3 billion his first year, $300 million in the second year to our universities and that’s just sad and it’s wrong.”

WTSP reported last week that using a school bus for anything other than educational purposes is against Florida Highway Patrol rules.

Crist’s claim: his tour was educational.

Early voting in Pinellas County began Saturday and runs through August 24 at any one of three election offices.

Those are the County Building in downtown St. Pete, 501First Avenue North, the County Courthouse in Clearwater, 315 Court Street and the Election Service Center in Largo, 13001 Starkey Road.

Also voting today with Crist was his wife, Carole.

About 20 supporters showed up to cheer Crist on while he voted.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.