Editorials

Beyond the negative ads

Charlie Crist, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, shake hands after their second debate.
Charlie Crist, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, shake hands after their second debate. AP

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist deserve a D for their media campaigns in the race for governor: D for dismal, dispiriting, discouraging and downright disappointing. The campaign has been a downer.

Both candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars on negative ads. Thanks to the mutual smear job, the public is turned off. Negative ads are a common feature of campaigns, but nastiness shouldn’t dominate a race.

Both Mr. Scott and Mr. Crist have spent most of their resources disparaging each other, or arguing over silly matters, like the fan at Wednesday night’s debate. A brief review of their records may remind voters that the candidates have a positive side.

GOV. RICK SCOTT

Gov. Scott came into office at a time when the economy was in the doldrums and immediately assumed a commendable eye-on-the-ball approach to the job. His focus on improving the business climate, lowering taxes and creating jobs has produced results.

Unemployment during his tenure has fallen from 11 percent to 6.3 percent, and the economy is picking up steam around the state. Lacking the level of federal stimulus money that Florida received when Mr. Crist was governor, he made tough decisions, like cutting the state workforce by nearly 10 percent.

The notoriously tight-fisted governor has been willing to spend money for a worthwhile cause, too, like dredging PortMiami so it could service a new era of cargo ships. The state agreed to pay $122.5 million for the dredging, thanks to his leadership, after the federal government refused.

A reform of auto insurance pushed by Mr. Scott produced lower bills for most drivers. Mr. Scott also saved money for nearly 20,000 Florida households getting refunds from the Florida Prepaid College Board.

And while Mr. Scott won’t win any awards from environmentalists, it’s fair to say there’s been significant progress on Everglades restoration under his tenure.

Under Mr. Scott, the economy is improving. He may not deserve all the credit, but there’s no question it’s headed in the right direction.

CHARLIE CRIST

Charlie Crist has been a legislator, attorney general, education commissioner and governor, in most cases compiling a record as a moderate that could aid him in steering Tallahassee back to the political center, where it belongs.

His instinct for fairness has shown itself in many ways, from streamlining the process that restores voting rights to ex-felons to taking on power companies for extreme rate hikes and putting a lid on the unwarranted rate increases of Citizens Insurance.

He can buck the tide when it’s the right thing to do. When the state’s Republican leaders wanted to keep brain-dead Terri Schiavo alive against her husband’s wishes, Attorney General Crist refused to join in. He’s pro-choice on abortion and supports gay marriage. He didn’t always take those positions, but a lack of ideological rigidity is commendable.

Mr. Crist takes a sensible approach: He supports gun rights but wants to fix the “Stand Your Ground” law. He realizes that the state should accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion — Mr. Scott does not — and wants to increase the minimum wage so some of the benefits of an improved economy go to workers at the bottom of the ladder.

As a native Floridian, Mr. Crist understands the Sunshine State and the needs and concerns of the people who live here.

Sunday: Our choice for governor.

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