Florida Republican Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist defended himself against charges he is not a strong conservative, vowing that if he were in the Senate now, he would vote against President Obama’s budget and tax increases and vigorously oppose the Democrats’ healthcare reform plan as well.
The popular governor announced on May 12, 2009, that he was not seeking re-election and instead would run for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Mel Martinez.
Editor's Note: See Newsmax.TV video with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist Below.
As a Senate candidate, Crist is facing a stiff challenge from former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. Rubio has been rising in recent polls, surprising political pundits in the Sunshine State.
“Rubio claims he is the true conservative in the race, and some Republicans say you’re not conservative enough,” Newsmax.TV’s Ashley Martella said, and asked: “How do you respond?”
“I think it’s kind of funny, to be honest with you,” Crist answered.
“I’m an anti-tax, pro-life, pro-gun Republican, and I think it’s very clear that during my entire career I’ve never voted for a new tax. I’ve always thought it was important to put people first, to make sure they have the opportunity to make their own decisions about their lives without the government intruding. If that’s not conservative, I don’t know what is . . .
“I’m proud of what we’ve done in Florida. When I got elected governor, out of the 50 states we were ranked 31st in education. We went from 31st to 14th to top 10 and this year top eight in education.”
Crist has a strong record in Tallahassee of keeping state spending in check and has stymied attempts to raise taxes to deal with the state’s budget deficit. He has earned high marks from conservative groups like the NRA for his advocacy of gun rights.
In his exclusive sit-down with Newsmax.TV conducted last Friday, Crist focused his attacks on Democrats in Washington.
Crist declared that Ronald Reagan would be “turning over in his grave” over profligate spending in Washington — and said he would favor military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Crist served as a state senator, education commissioner and attorney general in Florida before winning the election for governor in 2006, and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate on John McCain’s 2008 ticket. He first gained fame in state politics by calling for harsh prison sentences for felons, sponsoring a bill requiring inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole. He also sponsored legislation to re-establish chain gangs, which earned him the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie.”
Newsmax.TV’s Martella observed that President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget doubles the federal deficit in five years and triples it in 10, while calling for $1 trillion in tax increases. He asked: “If you were in the Senate, would you vote in favor of that budget?”
“Absolutely not,” Crist said. “It’s unbelievable. They just spend and spend and spend and tax and tax and tax. That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re doing in Florida. We have reduced taxes. We’ve cut our property taxes. We don’t have a state income tax. I’m proposing another $100 million in tax cuts in this legislative session coming up.
“I believe you need to tax less so that the people can spend their money more wisely than government will on any given day. What’s happening in Washington is exactly the opposite approach.
“I think Ronald Reagan would be turning over in his grave seeing what’s going on in D.C., because we all know, or at least I feel, that if you reduce taxes and give more of the hard-earned money back to the taxpayers so that they can spend it, you spur the economy forward. You revitalize entrepreneurship and the kinds of things a free market would bring about. So no, I would not vote for that budget.”
However, Crist defended his support of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, saying it was needed to prevent the state from falling into an “economic abyss” and saved the jobs of 87,000 police, firefighters and other public employees, plus 20,000 teachers.
Crist’s critics contend he was too close to Obama in his support of the bill, although every Republican governor joined with Crist in either supporting the stimulus bill or accepting the emergency funds it provided.
Martella asked if Crist as a Senator would support the healthcare overhaul bill that has been under consideration in Congress.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “And the reason is three. Number one, it would raise the rates people would have to pay for health insurance. Number two, it would raise taxes at a time when we don’t need to be raising taxes at all. And number three, it would have the incredible effect of taking about half a trillion dollars out of Medicare.”
Newsmax.TV’s Kathleen Walter noted that Crist recently released his proposed budget for Florida, calling for a 4 percent increase in spending, and asked for his take on the current economic situation.
“The economy continues to be challenged,” Crist responded.
“I think we’re all aware that unemployment is not where we want it to be, but there is some good news out there. For the first time since I’ve been governor of Florida, we finally have more revenue coming into the state treasury instead of less, and that’s really good news for the people.
“Most of Florida’s revenue is generated from sales tax. That means people are buying. Confidence is gaining. In addition, home sales are up in the Sunshine State — about 31 percent more than this time last year.”
Crist also came out swinging against Obama’s policies dealing with national security.
The administration has decided try accused 9/11 terrorists in U.S. civilian court — a move Crist opposes.
“As a former attorney general I can tell you in my opinion they’re pursuing exactly the wrong course,” he said.
“To treat these terrorists as a common criminal and try them in our courts instead of a military tribunal seems to me exactly the wrong direction to go in.
“These people are trying to kill tons of our fellow Americans. We need to get serious in how we deal with these people . . .
“I think the Obama administration is on the wrong track. We need to treat these people the way they should be treated, in military tribunals.”
He added that Guantanamo Bay is the “appropriate place” to conduct the trials.
Walter asked if Crist would support military action by the U.S. or Israel to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“Yes I would. I think it’s very important that we understand the incredible relationship that America enjoys with the state of Israel,” Crist responded.
“It’s very important to be loyal to our allies, to protect them in any way we can. Whether it’s Iran or other rogue nations, we have a responsibility and duty to do so.
“Ronald Reagan understood national security. We needed to have peace through strength, and we needed to be strong in our support of our allies. And one of our best allies on the planet is Israel.”
As for Obama’s budget, that has some bad news for Florida – it calls for the elimination of the NASA moon program based at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Crist said that was “very discouraging news.
“It’s the wrong thing to do and it’s the wrong time to do it. Florida has always been the place that reaches for the stars. We need to continue to invest in the Space Coast. It’s terribly important for the people who live there.”
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