politics

Charlie Crist’s new campaign manager departs

 

Tampa Bay Times

In a bad sign for Charlie Crist’s fledgling gubernatorial bid, his hotshot new campaign manager has left the team.

Bill Hyers, fresh off his big New York City win managing the campaign of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, was slated any day now to start working full time for the former Florida governor and had already been introduced to donors.

“It’s early. Our campaign structure is still coming together. Bill wanted to stay in New York because it was good for him,” Crist said in a brief email, discounting chatter among Democrats that Hyers’ departure related to differences with the candidate’s wife, Carole Crist.

Last month, at a fundraiser at The Forge in Miami Beach, Crist left little doubt about Hyers’ post, introducing him as “my campaign manager.”

Hyers, who was still in the process of getting a rental in St. Petersburg, gave all the standard lines about how he liked Crist, his record and believed he was a good Democrat. In a recent Washington Post profile, Hyers downplayed Crist’s lead in recent Florida polls, noting he would be “massively” outspent.

Hyers, 38, explained in Miami that he saw himself as the campaign’s engineer who would keep the trains running on time, rather than the political mastermind. He said most problems in a campaign were due to “execution” and how there’s a Murphy’s Law quality to it all: “If something can go wrong, it will.”

The Crist campaign’s senior political consultant is Steve Schale, who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign. Just as word was spreading among prominent Democrats about the sudden departure of Hyers from Crist’s campaign, Schale was on his way to Malaysia and the Philippines to participate in an exchange program of the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

Crist is off to a rocky start in his bid to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion as a Democrat. Shortly after his long-expected announcement last month, renewed speculation emerged about U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson getting into the race if Crist falters.

Now, the campaign manager has suddenly departed.

Hyers did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

With plenty of Democrats still worried about former Republican Crist’s prospects against Gov. Rick Scott, the staff shakeup certainly will do nothing to dim the speculation about Sen. Nelson ultimately jumping into the race to rescue his party.

“Charlie Crist’s campaign seems to be headed in the same direction he took Florida as governor — down and out,” scoffed the Republican Governors Association in a press release sent shortly after the Tampa Bay Times first reported the campaign manager’s departure.

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Times Political Editor can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com

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