Gloves are off in the race for Florida governor. The three top candidates for the office met with reporters in Tallahassee Wednesday, and all took verbal shots at their competitors.
Gov. Rick Scott was the first speaker at the annual meeting hosted by the Associated Press. He announced his fourth budget recommendation as governor. It’ll be his last unless he is re-elected.
“This budget also reserves funds and pays back money the previous administration raided from the budget stabilization fund,” Scott said.
The previous governor was former Republican Charlie Crist, who now wants his old job back as a Democrat.
Scott took jabs but never mentioned Crist by name.
“Our tax record in these four budgets represents a sharp contrast to the four budgets before we took office. We have cut taxes dozens of times," Scott said, "but the previous four budgets raised taxes by more than $2 billion.”
Crist criticized Scott for cutting education funding as soon as he took office.
"Now he’s trying to make up for it, you know, in an election-year transformation," Crist said. "There’s an old expression – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t believe Florida’s going to get fooled a second time.”
Crist also called out Scott for his leadership of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain.
“This is a guy who headed a company that ended up having to pay the largest fine for fraud in the history of the United States of America at the time,” Crist said.
Scott had already left the firm when it paid a $1.7-billion settlement for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, says Scott and Crist had their chance to lead and failed. She encouraged reporters not to count her out as the next governor.
“Who will lead the state for the next four years?" Rich asked the audience. "Although some, I think, in the media have already decided who that person might be, the voters will get the last word.”
A new survey of registered voters by Quinnipiac University shows Crist with an eight-point lead over Scott in a head to head race, while Rich is trailing Scott by four points. More than half of those polled say Scott doesn’t deserve a second term.