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Review and Comment

  • By Matt Walsh
  • | 10:00 a.m. October 24, 2014
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
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We often have noted that elections are referenda on incumbents' performance.

If they have performed satisfactorily and competently and continue to offer a governing philosophy that aligns with our nation's founding principles — that is, a defense of and promotion of our unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and freedom from the despotism of the tyrannical “state” — those candidates, in our view, deserve another term.

So block out the ads; turn off the TV and radio. Take the time to evaluate the performances of the candidates up for re-election and whether their opponents have demonstrated better competence and that their ideas will further or reduce your liberty. Who has more of what it takes to lead?

That analysis is the framework for deciding every election — particularly the elections of Florida's four executive positions — governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

By now, most voting Floridians likely have consumed more than enough information to know the stark differences between incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

They know the differences in their public personalities. We've said it before: Scott is stuff, Crist is fluff.

Crist is the quintessential, smooth politician who molds his persona to appear as the populist, the likable man for the little guy. Everybody loves Charlie. He cares about you, and he cares about Florida — more than anybody. That's the act.

Scott is all business. Goals, objectives, benchmarks, measurements and accomplishments drive him. Nice guy one on one, although challenged for much of his first term with connecting with Floridians. On a surface level and on TV, Crist beats Scott on the likability factor.

But imagine you're buying a stock. And when you buy a stock, you are buying a company's CEO. Which one do you want: the nice-guy CEO who is smooth in public with customers and with employees or the one who generates results, growth and shareholder return?

Remember, you're buying a stock for your future.

Which one would you pick?:

When Crist traveled with Florida CEOs to Brazil during his term as governor, a CEO who accompanied him reported to us Crist “was an embarrassment.” The Tampa Bay Times reported this summer:
“Crist horrified staffers, who say he acted on the trip more like an entitled frat boy on spring break — skipping meetings with dignitaries, showing up late to scheduled events...

“The aerospace conglomerate Embraer, a major employer in South Florida, laid out a fancy lunch spread for the governor and his delegation at its headquarters in Brazil. Crist stunned attendees when he suddenly excused himself barely 10 minutes into the meeting, telling (George) LeMieux he was bored.”

Contrast that with Scott, who spends time each week personally making sales calls to CEOs in other states to persuade them to move their businesses to Florida. This is fact: No governor in a quarter century has spent more time focused on creating and bringing more jobs to Florida.

To be sure, Scott cannot take all the credit for Florida's economic recovery. But his efforts have set the tone. Since his election in 2010, Florida has generated the third highest number of jobs among the 50 states — 625,000, according U.S. data. He promised 700,000 in seven years.

Now consider philosophical direction. Crist described his platform recently with this vague platitude: “Charlie Crist will have your back.” When you delve into specifics, nearly everything Crist wants to do as governor is expand the state Leviathan and restrict your freedom: reduce school choice; force taxpayers to subsidize lower property-insurance rates and take on insurance risk (a tax on your property insurance bill); increase government Medicaid spending; build a taxpayer-funded high-speed train (see California for reference); subsidize renewable energy with your money, and on and on.
Every inch that state government expands is a lost inch of liberty.

Scott, on the other hand, has stayed focused on creating a climate to encourage economic growth. It's a page from the political formula of Abraham Lincoln: “The leading object” of government, Lincoln wrote, is “to lift artificial weights from all shoulders — to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all — to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.” Jobs allow this to happen.
We'll take more jobs over Charlie Crist having our back.

Recommendation: Scott

If you relied on the descriptions of incumbent Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi by the opinion editors of most of Florida's big daily newspapers, you probably would conclude she deserves a failing grade. They don't like her priorities. And they hate her politics.

After all, she's a conservative constitutionalist, which is anathema to their view of the world.

They love her opponent, Democrat Party nominee George Sheldon.

He's a good guy, a career government man. A former state representative from Plant City, Sheldon also served as a top aide to former Democrat Attorney General Bob Butterworth; the No. 2 in the Department of Children and Family Services under Butterworth; as Gov. Charlie Crist's secretary of DCF; and until recently, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sheldon, of course, has portrayed himself as Charlie Crist did when Crist served his one-term stint as attorney general: tough on white-collar crime and the consumer's best friend.

But Sheldon also showed his own nasty political side when he accused Bondi last fall of making an investigation of a Donald Trump-affiliated business “evaporate” — Sheldon's word — after she received a $25,000 contribution to her campaign from a Trump business.

Those were fighting words. Be sure to watch the video referenced in the accompanying box all the way to the end. When a reporter at an Associated Press conference asked Bondi about Sheldon's accusation, she let loose with a response that pretty much sums up how Sheldon's candidacy should be viewed. Said Bondi:

“It's untrue, it's offensive and it's despicable for someone running for chief legal officer [to] say such a lie. He needs to know his facts before he talks...

“That I would make an investigation evaporate? You want someone like that to be your attorney general? ... It's completely false...For him to say an investigation was pending when I took a campaign contribution and that it evaporated — it's despicable and disgusting.”

And let's do set the record straight. Sheldon and the opinion editors make Bondi out to be ineffective and misdirected, focusing too much on fighting the federal government. They give her grudging credit for ending Florida's pill-mill crisis and attacking the trafficking of teenage girls. And they slap her for postponing a death-penalty execution because it conflicted with a political event.

They're right on the latter. Bad “optics,” as they say in Washington.

But they fail to mention barely a “smidgen” of what Bondi has accomplished in her first term. We urge you to watch the YouTube video. Her accomplishments are many and significant.

Recommendation: Bondi

One of the oddities of Florida government is its elected Cabinet.

While many people believe Florida's governor has the same powers and authorities as the president of the United States, in fact, the governor shares authority with the three Cabinet members — attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

They vote on such things as the location of electric power plants; the control and disposition of all state-owned property; and they serve as the collective head of Florida's Department of Law Enforcement. They wield a lot of power as a Cabinet and in their respective domains.

The chief financial officer is not only charged with managing Florida's tax revenues, disbursements and borrowing, he's the state's top regulator over the banking and insurance industries. The agriculture commissioner oversees more than cattle and citrus; he's the state's chief consumer protector and regulates anything connected to the growing, distribution and handling of food. He also regulates fuels and pesticides.

In CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, both Republicans, Floridians have two of the most competent people to have occupied their positions in a quarter century.

Atwater is a former bank president from North Palm Beach. He rose from vice mayor there to become a state representative and eventually Florida Senate president from 2008 to 2010. His great-grandfather, Napolean Broward, was Florida's governor from 1905 to 1909.

Atwater's opponent, Democrat Will Rankin, is an Army veteran and former chief asset manager for the state of Ohio. A former Republican, Rankin lives in Deerfield Beach.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam, 40, has been a political meteor in Florida ever since being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996 at age 22. At age 26, the fifth-generation Bartow native was elected to Congress, where he rose to the No. 3 position in the Republican-controlled House.

Coming back to his roots, Putnam ran for agriculture commissioner in 2010. Given his family's agriculture background and his legislative experience, few are more suited for the state's agriculture commissioner, and he has been living up to expectations. Send him back for a second term.

Recommendation: Atwater and Putnam

To understand what Attorney General Pam Bondi has done in her first term, we highly recommend your viewing this video. You won't get this side in the mainstream press:

At the risk of being eclipsed by their comments about the infamous fan at Tuesday's final gubernatorial debate between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, we have some advice for the two candidates:

Always take the high road.

Neither of them did last week at the Leadership Florida-Florida Press Association debate in Broward County.

They were shameful. An embarrassment to Florida.

Their staffs were even worse. One of the organizers of the debate, who witnessed the arguments off stage over Crist's fan, called the representatives of both camps “kindergartners.”
Crist broke the rules; but Scott ended up the fool.

This brings to mind the wisdom former President George W. Bush dispensed to a dozen high-school scholarship winners earlier this year in a private meeting in Sarasota.

“Unexpected, bad things are going to happen to you,” he told them. That's life. “The important thing,” he said, “is how you respond.”

Here's how Crist should have responded before Tuesdays' debate: “About our last debate, I want to apologize to all Floridians and Gov. Scott. The rules said no electronic devices; we should not have placed that fan without Gov. Scott's permission.

“I'll admit: I perspire. It's one of my many faults. That's why I like fans.

“But there's no excuse. I am sorry for my behavior and my staff's behavior. I am better than that; and my staff is better than that. We'll do better, you deserve better.”

Then Gov. Scott should have said: “I, too, want to apologize to my fellow Floridians and apologize for me and my staff making an issue of Gov. Crist's fan.

“It's a fan ... Florida's concerns are far, far greater than a fan. My staff and I should — and will — stay focused on what's important to you.

“I take responsibility. The buck stops with me. You deserve better, and I pledge, once again, you will always get my very best. I hope you forgive me.”

Take the High Road. Be the Bigger Man.


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