UPDATE 3-Florida gov set to announce independent Senate run

Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:47pm EDT

Related Topics

* Crist faulted by some Republicans as 'moderate'

* Decision seen as barometer ahead of elections

* Crist angered party by welcoming Obama stimulus plan (Adds comment by Republican National Committee chairman)

By Pascal Fletcher

MIAMI, April 28 (Reuters) - Florida Governor Charlie Crist is poised to announce he will run as an independent for the U.S. Senate in the November congressional elections, in a race that spotlights the ideological rift in the Republican Party.

U.S. media reports said Crist, 53, elected as a Republican governor in 2006, would announce his nonaffiliated Senate bid on Thursday. It was a widely anticipated move because he is far behind rival Marco Rubio in the race for the Republican nomination.

The battle in Florida, a U.S. electoral swing state, is being followed closely for its possible impact on the congressional elections. Crist is under fire from critics within the Republican Party who accuse him of being too moderate.

Crist's U.S. Senate campaign said he would hold a "candidate qualifying event" on Thursday at 5 p.m (2100 GMT) in St. Petersburg, where he lives. He was expected to make his decision public then.

The St. Petersburg Times and Fox News reported on Wednesday in blogs on their websites that Crist was telling financial backers and allies he would break with the Republicans for the Senate race. The Orlando Sentinel reported the same on its website. The primary is set for Aug. 24.

"So the word is out: Gov. Charlie Crist is telling key financial backers that he's running for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation," Adam Smith, political editor of the St. Petersburg Times, wrote in his blog.

Analysts said Crist's decision to run as an independent could have been influenced by a recent opinion poll showing the governor could win a three-way race in November among him, Rubio and the Democratic Party front-runner, Representative Kendrick Meek.

Crist, who had enjoyed wide support in the fourth most populous U.S. state and was once seen as a potential running mate to defeated 2008 Republican presidential contender John McCain, has found himself abandoned by prominent members of his party. A recent opinion poll showed Crist more than 20 points behind Rubio in the Republican primary race.

A spokesperson in Crist's campaign office declined to comment.

'THAT'S HIS DECISION'

The Orlando Sentinel, which cited two sources close to Crist without identifying them, said he would portray himself as a candidate more interested in serving "the people" than partisan politics.

It said he would begin campaigning as an independent almost immediately with a fund-raising event.

Many see the governor's political fortunes as a barometer of the clash for the soul of the Republican Party between conservative purists and pragmatic moderates, triggered by the party's defeat in the 2008 election that made Democrat Barack Obama president.

Reacting to the reports that Crist would run as an independent, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said he did not want the governor to leave the party.

"But that's his decision to make. My responsibility is to make sure the Republican wins the seat, and that's what we're going to be committed to doing," Steele told CNN.

"If Crist is not in the primary any longer, then we know who the nominee will be, that'll be Marco Rubio, and, guess what? There will be no Senator Crist!" he added.

Rubio, 38, a son of Cuban immigrants and a former state House speaker, has become a darling of the Republican Party's conservative wing and of Tea Party activists, whose noisy militancy is shaking up the party establishment.

Crist angered his party this month by vetoing a bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature to eliminate teacher tenure and link teachers' pay to improvements in student test scores.

Crist said the measure went too far in taking away teacher protections that constituents overwhelmingly wanted to keep.

The governor had drawn suspicion and criticism from within his party since early last year, when he welcomed President Obama's economic stimulus package, saying it could help his cash-strapped state.

The governor also hugged Obama during a presidential visit to Florida, leading to scornful accusations he was a "RINO" (Republican in Name Only). (Additional reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
cb14 wrote:
This piece is obviously written by someone who wants to make the Republican Party look bad. Crist has not been criticized for being too “moderate.” He’s been criticized for defending President Obama’s “stimulus” bill and for vetoing a bill in Florida that would increase compensation for good teachers and make it easer to fire bad teachers, a bill championed by Republicans such as former governor Jeb Bush. Republicans have particular issues with Crist; they do not criticize him just for being “moderate.” This article goes on to imply that the national Republican Party is purging its moderates – that’s ridiculous. This year Republicans have coalesced around moderate Republicans in Massachusetts (Scott Brown), Illinois (Mark Kirk), and Delaware (Mike Castle) among others. This piece also implies that Democrats have only been in power since 2008, not true. Democrats took control of Congress, both the House and Senate, in 2006. A full two years before Barack Obama was elected president. Reuters has lost some credibility. -Camron Barth

Apr 28, 2010 4:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
libby51 wrote:
How dare Charlie Crist do the work of the people who elected him, he should be sent to Washington to suffer the abuses of his former party as a moderate for and of the people. If he doesn’t get the senate seat I hope the Democrate wins. Somebody has got to get the work done and Rubio would not be there to get the work done. Rubio needs to be a community organizer for a few years to get his priorities straight.

Apr 28, 2010 5:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
indieinfla wrote:
To clarify the reasoning behind Crist’s veto of Florida SB6, he veto’d the legislation because it created a performance based pay system with no mechanism in place to measure performance. The legislation also eliminated pay increases for teachers with post-graduate degrees. In every profession, those with higher degrees are rewarded with higher pay. Without the reward of a higher salary, why would an educator obtain a post-graduate degree and go deeper in debt? Governor Crist stated that he thinks a performance based pay system is needed, but that the proposed legislation didn’t do enough to define it. I agree, having read the legislation myself. What is missing in the discussion surrounding the situation is the fact that the ultimate responsibility regarding a students performance falls on the parents.

Apr 30, 2010 9:18am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.