Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced that he is leaving the Republican party and running for U.S. Senate as an independent. A New York Times blog-post title says it all: "Crist to GOP: Drop Dead." Many Republicans, including Ex-Gov. Bush, don't seem too happy about it.
This should be interesting. One thing that many of us Floridians agree on is that Gov. Crist was nowhere near as atrociously Republican as his predecessor Jeb Bush.
The St. Pete Times suspects that Gov. Crist will be "tapping an unusually wide pool of potential donors that includes Democrats and liberal special interest groups like trial lawyers and the teachers union."
One thing that might help Gov. Crist with the teachers is his vetoing a GOP bill a couple weeks ago that had Florida's teachers and parents up in arms:
Crist's verdict [on the controversial bill]: "We must start over. This bill has deeply and negatively affected the morale of our teachers, our parents and our students. They are not confident in our system because they do not believe their voices were heard."
Another thing that might help Gov. Crist with angry teachers and parents would be if he did more to roll back ex-Gov. Bush's education policies.
Mr. Bush had set up a heavily test-centered system (FCAT) that has been a huge thorn in the side of teachers, parents, and students for some years now. No one could figure out why Mr. Bush had been so reluctant to change the much-hated policies.
Perhaps coincidentally, Mr. Bush's brother Neil (of Silverado Savings and Loan fame) was part of a company called "Ignite Learning," which happened to sell software designed to help students study for standardized tests like the FCAT. Reportedly, Jeb's brother (or his company) made some $20 million selling FCAT software to Florida schools.
God only knows how many other private contractors were making out like bandits due to Jeb Bush's education policy. But I digress....Once again, if Gov. Crist wants to make real headway with teachers and parents, he should do more to roll back Jeb's education policy. That might be difficult, given that both houses of Florida's legislature have huge Republican majorities, and the Republicans aren't feeling particularly warmly toward Crist these days.
Still, Gov. Crist could use his position to truly expose the mammoth flaws of the education policies that Jeb had left behind while Jeb was leaving thousands of Florida's children behind.
Education aside, Gov. Crist has done some good things for this state. The first two that come to mind are Nathan Skop and Nancy Argenziano: that is, Crist appointed them to Florida's Public Service Commission--which is intended to protect consumers from monopolistic utility companies. As I've blogged about here and here (and here and here), Skop and Argenziano are two of the most consumer-friendly commissioners ever -- certainly more concerned with consumers than the hyper-utility-friendly commissioners that Mr. Bush had appointed.