Mitch Perry Report 5.8.14: Charlie Crist says he may go to Cuba. And..?


You had to know that when the Times' Adam C. Smith posted early Wednesday morning that Charlie Crist was considering a visit to Cuba that it would drive the day's news cycle for those covering the gubernatorial race, with predictable howls of protest from Crist critics and uncomfortable no-comments from some Democrats.

But is expressing support for ending the sanctions against the communist island really touching the third rail of Florida politics in 2014? Outside of Miami, not really. 

“It’s sort of laughable. He’s going to go down there and help promote the Castro regime,” Governor Rick Scott told reporters at yet another campaign appearance at a car dealership (this one in Greenacres). Lieutenant-Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera chimed in, saying his family “lost everything” after Castro came to power and his grandmother’s brothers were imprisoned by Castro. “Charlie’s been a Republican and an independent and a Democrat,” Lopez-Cantera is quoted in the Palm Beach Post. “I don’t know, maybe he’s going down there to explore becoming a communist."

It's a funny line, because really, I'm not exactly sure what the purpose is. Crist already announced on Bill Maher earlier this year that like Nan Rich, Kathy Castor, and surely a few other elected Democratic officials in Florida, he thinks the economic embargo's effectiveness ended a long time ago. Many advocates for warmer relations between the U.S. and Cuba (and especially between Florida and Cuba) encourage people to travel there, so maybe Crist wants to further prove how progressive he is. 

Obviously there are passionate critics of the Castro regime who believe it's horrible to do anything that appears to be propping up that government. But not every exile feels that way, it should be noted. Miami-Dade Representative Ana Rivas Logan, who has roots in Cuba and like Crist switched from being a Republican to a Democrat this year, spoke in support of him last night. "Our neighbors 90 miles away are suffering under tyrannical government in part because of a failed economic policy that Rick Scott still defends."

it's sort of like Crist's declaration that he thinks the Affordable Care Act is "great." That's actually refreshing for a Democrat to take such an approach since so many others seem flummoxed when asked about that. And while those in Miami may not approve, the state has been evolving in its relationship with Cuba for years. 

But let's be honest: the only people who can literally change our policy toward Cuba are the president and Congress. So you know who I'd really like to hear comment on the embargo? Hillary Clinton. I hope some reporter gets the chance to ask her about that when she makes her way through the Sunshine State to promote her upcoming memoir. That would be interesting, and depending on her response, potentially ballsy.

Meanwhile, Crist made a few headlines Tuesday night when he went on the Fusion network to say that racial animus toward Barack Obama was a major factor in his decision to quit the Republican Party. 

Another contrast between Crist and Rick Scott is that Crist supports Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative on this fall's ballot. Although some Republicans are pointing to their passage of the "Charlotte's Web" bill for a lower level strain of legalized pot for those with certain illnesses, organizers of the amendment say it simply doesn't go far enough. 

And CL was at the first public hearing regarding the re-development of Riverfront Park in Tampa on Tuesday night. 

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