Charlie Crist pledges to ‘return Florida to the middle class’ in his bid for governor

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Attacking Rick Scott as a bully who governs from the fringe, Charlie Crist declared his Democratic candidacy for governor at a press conference Monday and pledged to “return Florida to the middle class.”

Speaking at Albert Whitted Park on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, Crist wasted no time in detailing his priorities for leading the state of Florida. They include reversing Scott’s cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program, creating a Cabinet-level post on global trade, and investing in high-speed rail as well as renewable energy.

At the same time, Crist pledged to lower taxes while ensuring that cuts benefit the middle class and small businesses.

Crist – who formerly served Florida as a GOP governor – promised to work with both parties. He lashed out at Scott for thinking that “the only way to govern is from the fringes. Anyone who disagrees with him is an enemy.”

Crist said that as governor “it is not a sin to reach across the aisle but your obligation.” He added, “I am running as a Democrat and proud to do it.”

“It is principles that unite us. They are more compelling that the issues that divide us,” he said, asking supporters to urge friends who are Independents and Republicans – like his own parents – to join his campaign.

He also urged supporters to go on social media to spread the message. He predicted that Scott will outspend him, adding that the best ideas for moving the state forward will “trump money and power.”

“We want to open up the doors of democracy,” said Crist, who also lashed out at the governor for implementing voter purges. “People should care.”

Crist then detailed a platform that focuses on education, tax cuts, improving the state’s infrastructure and investing in renewable energy. Crist said that he wants to:

• Improve education by supporting teachers in public schools and making college affordable. He would restore funding to the Bright Futures program. He would create financial incentives for students to pursue graduate degrees in targeted fields at Florida universities, as long as they pledge to work in the state when they graduate.
• Create tax cuts that benefit the middle class and small businesses. Crist did not offer specifics but attacked Scott for vetoing funding for the National Entrepreneurship Center, which assists small business owners.
• Re-invest in the state’s infrastructure, modernizing roads and ports. He emphasized the need to make sure that ports can efficiently accommodate cargo ships. He would target the Space Coast for development, and make Port Canaveral a leading transportation hub. Crist also would invest in high speed rail and mass transit.
• Promote renewable energy, including solar and wind technology and by harnessing the power of the Gulf. He wants to make it easier for small clean energy companies to compete against the big utilities.
• Open up trade in foreign markets by creating a Cabinet-level trade and development commissioner. Crist said that he wants to make Florida a “trade beacon,” predicting that it would create tens of thousands of new jobs in the Sunshine State.