By Dixie Ann Black
The 2022 Florida gubernatorial election is around the corner. Election day is November 8, 2022. Charlie Crist has thrown his hat in the ring to once again become Florida’s governor.
On last Thursday’s edition of the Westside Gazette 2-Minute Warning, Charlie Crist was questioned by co-hosts Perry Busby, columnist, and Bobby Henry, Sr., Publisher, along with three panelists.
Fifteen-year-old Layla Davidson, author of “Words for your Walk”, a Daily Devotional for teen girls who attends Ft. Lauderdale High School in the Magnet Law Program and aspires to be a lawyer/journalist, was one of three panelists. Josh Jones, CEO of Digital Advertising, was the second panelist. Josh introduced his business as “one of the fastest growing digital firms in the country”. He is married and the father of two. He is also a self-proclaimed political junky. The third panelist was Brandon Freeny, a community leader, business therapist and an impact entrepreneur and no stranger to politics. Brandon describes himself as a “man with a plan to change the world,” and he is doing that through impact entrepreneurship with his non-profit company Positivity Praise, where the focus is on positive messaging and positive imagery to combat the negative stereotypes in our community.
Charlie Crist refreshed the audience on his political in Florida. This includes having been the last elected Commissioner of Education of Florida in 2000, Attorney General in 2002, and governor of Florida, serving from 2007 through 2011. He is currently a Florida State Senator. In 2016 he was elected to congress. He is in his third term representing Florida’s thirteenth congressional district (representing a significant portion of Tampa Bay).
Crist was born in Altoona Pennsylvania. He moved to Florida as a child, eventually graduating from Florida State University with his undergraduate degree before going on to law school. He began his practice of law in St. Petersburg Florida. Crist built his political legacy starting by working with former senator Connie Mack. He was elected to the state senate in 1992. He is currently poised to run for the upcoming Florida Gubernatorial election as a Democratic candidate.
Ms. Davidson opened up the questions by asking how Mr. Crist will strive to promote unity rather than division. The former governor referred back to his parents and his Christian roots, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” He pointed out yellow wrist bands which he wears as a reminder of that commitment. He stated his commitment to “Treat each other with dignity, respect with kindness.”
In regard to her question about supporting small and minority businesses, Crist pointed to tourism and Florida’s beauty, stating “our environment and our economy are inextricably linked, the way you help businesses the most is to protect the environment, protect tourism.” He used the opportunity to refer to the current Governor as “attacking Disney World” and further stated that “the fact that he (DeSantis) is in this anti-business fight with one of the largest employers in the state of Florida, is shocking to me…”
When questioned by Columnist Perry Busby about his history as a Republican governor turned Democrat, Crist described his journey from Republican to Democrat. “I was a Republican because Mom and Dad were.” He identified the rise of the Tea Party in 2009/2010 as “a coarseness that he started to become uncomfortable with” but the “straw that broke the camel’s back” that led him to become a “proud Florida Democrat more than 10 years ago” was the response he received from his Republican party when he introduced then President, Barack Obama.
Crist described the scene: The economy had collapsed in 2009. President Barack Obama visited the Florida (Ft. Myers) to help Florida through the Recovery Act, offering the state $12 Billion to stave off massive layoffs. Crist met with the President, introducing him at the event. As the President came on stage the two men exchanged a hug. Crist summed up the deciding moment as follows:
“The hug that killed me as a Republican wasn’t because I hugged a Democratic President. It was because I hugged the first Black President. And it broke my heart because I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to treat all people with respect, and with dignity and with kindness. And I am proud to say I am a Florida Democrat, through and through and blue and blue.”
Panelist Josh Jones brought up concerns of current action being taken by the current governor whereby congressional districts five and ten will be weakened by redistricting. Mr. Jones asked, “What will you do as governor and what can you do as a congressman at the federal level to combat that?”
“Governor DeSantis and the legislature basically stripped two strong African American Representatives, Val Demings and Al Lawson of those districts. It is race intended. Crist added rhetorically,
“What are we? In the 1950’s?”.
Crist said he never would have signed off on this change. His suggestion is that the new maps should be challenged in court, by groups like the NAACP, League of Women Voters and others groups because he believes they are unconstitutional.
Brandon Feeny, the third panelist, offered what he described as the unspoken problem in the Democratic party: messaging. Mr. Feeny pointed out that messaging is used effectively by the Republican party regardless of whether or not it is false propaganda, even while the Democrats have the policy and moral upper hand. He stressed that messaging is what resonates with the people. The result he said is “Democrats seem to always get clobbered in this manner.”
“What kind of messaging are you going to put out to combat the bad faith messaging behind “Don’t Say Gay”, “CRT” (Critical Race Theory) and all these things we know are not true or based on anything logical?
Crist’s reply was, “I would tell the truth.” He again pivoted to remind the Black community of his record. He pointed out restoring the rights of ex-felons, returning citizens. “You would also have a governor again who believes in your voting rights.”
“You can judge me by my deeds and not just my words.” He reminded the panel that he worked to expand early voting in the past. Other solutions he proposed included appointing more African American judges and legalizing marijuana recreationally.
“I view education as the equal opportunity provider in our country. If we give everyone equality, a foundational education, then they have the opportunity, if they want to, to go on. They can go to college, learn a trade (etc.).”
Mr. Henry asked Mr. Crist to clarify the “Chain Gang Charlie” references in the media. Crist said that around 1993/94, when he was a young state senator, Florida was number one in violent crime in America. He co-sponsored an amendment with a Democrat that would bring chain gangs back to Florida. The message he was trying to send was that if you committed a crime against the people in Florida there were going to be consequences. The bill had nothing to do with race, Crist pointed out, it had to do with crime. He said crime began to fall because of that amendment, adding that he also restored the rights of former felons.
Mr. Crist summed up his plan to get the African American vote by advertising in the Black community and being on African American media sources like the 2-Minute Warning.
The audience posed other issues that included the voting laws, “prison pipeline” and reparations watch the entire interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJglqQ_eS6Y
Dixie Ann Black
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