So almost immediately after posting my first entry about Charlie Crist likely running for Senate without party affiliation, the governor came out and said he was sticking with the Republican Party. I really wondered if my credibility as someone aware of Florida politics was shot.
But then came the SB6 veto. I feel better now.
For those who like to discuss issues by name instead of number, you probably know SB6 as the teacher pay bill. Full disclosure, both my parents are public school teachers in Florida, so I'm biased when it comes to debates on how much educators get paid. But this isn't a blog about education policy. This is about politics. And I think when Charlie Crist vetoed this bill, it sent a strong political signal about his own plans.
Education has long been the one issue in Florida where Republicans care about accountability. So this proposal to tie teacher pay to student performance was a right-winger's dream. It easily passed the state House and Senate, and had the strong backing of uber-Republican Jeb Bush. And of course, it was supported by Senate hopeful Marco Rubio. So when Crist nixed the legislation, it sent a strong signal he was willing to break with the entire Republican Party.
What has almost been humorous, though, is the reaction of Democrats. Kendrick Meek, the Dems' best shot at taking this Senate seat, floundered in a statement praising the teachers' unions for forcing a veto, but trying unsuccessfully to criticize Crist. "The Republican leadership in Tallahassee," he said, "is waging a sustained, mean-spirited attack against our teachers." True, but then Meek isn't looking for a job in Tallahassee. And if Crist is his opponent, well, Crist stopped the bill from going into effect, something no Democrat was able to do.
So why does this signal Crist's bolt to no-party status? That pits him against Meek right now. And frankly, Crist destroys Meek. At this moment, Crist is more effective in pushing the Democrats' agenda than the Democrat in the race. For the same reason, he would really do well to get out of a Republican primary.
This veto means Crist doesn't care about pissing off 70 percent of Republicans. That either means he has given up on winning the primary, or he doesn't plan to stay in it. We'll know by April 30, but my bet is the latter.