FOX 35's Mike Synan spent an afternoon in the park with Charlie Crist as he tries to regain the Governor's mansion, but this time as a Democrat. We have included some of the excerpts from that interview here:
On why Charlie Crist changed from a Republican to a Democrat:
"I saw the leadership of the Republican Party go so hard right, and Jeb Bush said it himself, my friend Jeb said The Republican Party is anti-women, anti-minority, anti-public education, anti-immigration, you can go on down the line, and you know pretty soon there's nobody left in the room, and it just didn't reflect my values, how my mother and father raised my three sisters and me which was to be tolerant, to be decent to people, and to do unto others, and that's some pretty fundamental stuff, and so it just wasn't comfortable to be there. The Republican Party really did leave me, and I'm very comfortable being a Democrat."
On why Charlie Crist raised fees in Florida after campaigning to cut taxes:
"What I wanted to do was make sure we had enough to be able to continue to pay those teachers, that we had enough to be able to continue to pay our law enforcement officers, our firefighters, our first responders who protect our fellow Floridians, and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Those decisions are not easy, but a leader does it. That's what I did and I'm glad that I did it. I also took the stimulus money, the Recovery Act from President Obama, and I'm glad that I did that too."
On selecting Jim Greer to run the Republican Party of Florida (Greer is now serving a prison term for stealing money from the party):
"My Chief of Staff George LeMieux recommended him. We both had the chance to watch him on the campaign back in 2006. At the time, I thought George gave me good advice. It turned out that that wasn't the case."
On Gov. Rick Scott and his record on education:
"Governor Scott, unfortunately in first legislative session, guts public education by $1.3 billion, just eviscerates K through 12. Then, he follows that up in his second session, unbelievable to me, but says we're going to cut another 300 million out of higher education. Now you can't do that and have an education system that is valued. In fact, it becomes under valued."
On his raising fees on licenses and registration when governor:
"I said to all our budget people, look don't bring me a budget that reduces education significantly as Governor Scott did, that reduces higher education spending like Governor Scott did. We have got to protect and preserve education and value our teachers."
On the new Common Core federal education standards:
"Secretary Arne Duncan in the Obama Administration supports, and so does our former Governor and my friend Jeb Bush. A Democrat and a Republican thinks this is the right way to go. Governor Scott doesn't think so because to him, I guess, you'll have to ask him, maybe he'll answer maybe he won't, but it seems to me that by not doing it, it's like saying well because it comes from somebody in Washington, it 's not something I'm allowed to embrace in today's Republican Party, and that's just sad."
The Republican Party fired back, saying that Gov. Scott never cut $1.3 billion from education. They say the cuts came when Washington's stimulus program ended, and the feds never replaced the artificially inflated education budget. They also promised to make ethics an issue in the campaign, given Charlie Crist's hiring of Jim Greer to lead the RPOF back in 2006. Mr. Greer is now serving a prison term for stealing money from the party.