Nan Rich wants to be Florida’s next governor. To win, the former Florida Senate Minority Leader is fond of saying that she has to beat two Republicans—incumbent Rick Scott and his predecessor Charlie Crist, who switched from Republican to Democrat to battle Rich in the party’s August primary.
When Rich stopped by the Independent News offices on Wednesday, June 18, Crist was very much on her mind. The man won’t debate her, but she refused to take “No” for an answer.
Rich traveled the state for nearly two years meeting with Democratic Party leaders, building her grassroots campaign organization. When Crist got into the race, things changed. Rich had to win the nomination by beating someone with huge name recognition across the state.
“My biggest challenge is to fight that name recognition and expand my own and to get our records out there,” she said. Once people begin to focus on her and Crist’s records, Rich believes that Democrats will support her.
“He doesn’t want that, which is why he has not agreed to a debate,” she said. “We’ll see.”
According to Rich, Florida Democrats want a primary debate because they don’t know who he is and what he stands for. “He doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t want to give me any more name recognition,” she said. “He also knows I’m going right after him on the flips and flops of his record.”
She believes that party faithful will see that Crist really isn’t a Democrat. “If it were just one thing, you could say people change their minds. They get new information. Science changes. Something,” Rich explained, “But not 180 degrees on every single issue of importance and what I consider core Democratic values.”
Rich pointed out that Crist now promotes myself as pro-public education and repeatedly attacks Governor Rick Scott on education. She said that Crist’s record on public education isn’t as strong as he wants voters to believe.
“He was governor for four years. Did he do anything about the FCAT and changing high stakes testing?” she said. “No, he never did anything. What he did do is sign a huge voucher expansion. That is one of things he doesn’t talk about.”
She asked, “How can you say that you are good for teachers and public education when you signed the largest expansion of school vouchers that takes money away from public schools?”
Rich has challenged Crist on his record on LBGT rights. For seven years, she sponsored a gay adoption bill in the state legislature. Florida was the only state that banned gay adoption until a judge overturned the law in 201.
“When I first filed the bill in the House, I had one legislator stand next to me, a Republican woman who happened to have a gay son,” she said. “When the seventh year came around, I had 23 legislators stand with me. Charlie Crist was against it all seven years. Now that he is a Democrat running for office, he is in favor of it.”
She added, “In 2008, he was proud to sign the petition to ban marriage equality in the state of Florida. Now he’s for that.”
Rich said that she got into the governor’s race because she believed strongly that Florida is going in the wrong direction. From her travels around the state, she has found that people agree with me.
“We need to refocus our priorities and focus on the best interests of people instead of the best interests of corporations,” she said. “The past three Republican governors have lead us in that direction.”
She added, “They undermined and tried to destroy public education in this state in favor of privatization. I think parents, particularly mothers, have shown that they are no happy with the direction that state is going, particularly with public education.”
Rich saw that dissatisfaction when she built a coalition in 2012 to block the “Parent Trigger” bill that would have allowed a majority of parents at chronically failing schools to vote on a method to restructure their neighborhood school.
“We worked to kill that “Parent Trigger” bill on a 20-20 vote the last day of the 2012 session,” she said. “Parents from all over this state came to Tallahassee to show they were unhappy.”
That was when she began thinking about running for governor. “I looked around at the Democrats who could possibly think about it, and I said why not met” she said. “I have the experience, the knowledge, the passion for these issues so I began the quest.”
At the time, Crist was still a Republican, but Rich didn’t waiver when he switched parties. And she will get that debate.
“I’m a lifelong Democrat. I have a record and I’m proud of it,” said Rich. “Let’s debate and have Crist tell the voters why he did this before he did this.”