Florida voters face a political choice unique in the state’s history: They will re-elect a governor or replace him with his predecessor.
It could happen only in Florida, and only because former Gov. Charlie Crist switched parties and is seeking to win his old job back.
Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat, and his successor, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, were first elected in very different times but served with similar tools. Each was in power when his party dominated the Legislature, giving him near complete control to influence policy.
Crist held office as a global recession cratered the state’s economy and Scott, elected at the recession’s peak, has led the state through the recovery.
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The Herald/Times has compared Crist’s and Scott’s records in a range of areas, from public school spending to property insurance premiums; from the number of Death Row executions to the number of civil rights restoration cases; from the size of the state work force to the growth in the number of people on welfare.
As the Herald/Times reported in December, there is little a governor can do to directly affect the state economy. He can’t make businesses create jobs. He can’t require companies to raise wages or boost the middle class earnings.
A governor can, however, influence state policies and direct agencies to work with the Legislature to put policies in place that encourage job and wage growth.
When it comes to spending taxpayers’ money, a governor’s single most powerful weapon is his line-item veto power over the Legislature’s annual spending decisions. The multi-billion dollar spending plan serves as the governor and Legislature’s blueprint for their priorities.
We assembled data in key policy areas that show the contrast between Scott and Crist.