Crist alliances upset GOP

By Brendan Farrington ASSOCIATED PRESS

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | A Republican no longer, Gov. Charlie Crist just can’t seem to get enough of President Obama or Democratic priorities.

The independent is behaving more like the independent he is in Florida’s wildly unpredictable Senate race, standing with the president, courting organized labor and vetoing legislation to ban embryonic-stem-cell research at the state’s universities.

Conservatives he once wooed say it’s the mark of a political chameleon – or worse. The state GOP’s news release says, “You can’t spell Charlie without ‘lie.’ ” But Mr. Crist’s path to statewide election goes in a different direction now, far, far away from the “tea party” activists who drove him from the GOP.

Looking to cobble together a broad coalition of voters, including Democrats and independents, Mr. Crist has:

  • Vetoed a bill that would have required women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion, a move that upset many Republicans. He also didn’t make any GOP friends when he vetoed $371 million in spending provisions in the budget, along with language that would have prohibited universities from conducting embryonic-stem-cell research.
  • Cozied up to labor unions, teachers unions and trial lawyers. Mr. Crist asked the AFL-CIO for its endorsement, appearing before the group and telling them he will listen to their arguments in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize. Republicans oppose it because of a “card check” provision that allows workers to form a union by signing cards instead of holding a secret-ballot vote.
  • Told the St. Petersburg Times that he is willing to consider overturning a Florida law that bans gays from adopting. He had supported the gay adoption ban. He also told the Miami Herald that he supports the Obama administration’s decision to allow Cuban-Americans unrestricted travel to visit relatives still in Cuba and to send them money. Mr. Crist had favored tighter restrictions on travel and money sent to Cuba.

There may have been some foreshadowing to his moves: Weeks before he left the GOP in April, Mr. Crist vetoed a bill that would have tied teacher merit raises to test scores, a priority for the Republican-dominated legislature and former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Florida Education Association split its endorsement between Mr. Crist and Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, a top candidate in the Democratic Senate primary who led a petition drive to place class-size limits in the state constitution. Mr. Crist earned his half with the veto of the merit pay bill.

“I don’t even know who Charlie Crist is anymore,” said Sharon Day, the state’s representative on the Republican National Committee. “He ran as a Jeb Bush conservative to win the governor’s primary, he bragged about being a Ronald Reagan Republican and he’s shown that he’s anything but that.”

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