He's being called "the People's Governor" — so will he listen to his now-fellow Democrats when it comes to their wish that he debate Nan Rich?
So far the answer from Team Crist has been a resounding "no," but a new Public Policy Polling survey just released indicates that when it comes to the base, Florida Democrats would like to see Crist debate Rich sometime before the late August primary election for governor.
PPP reports that 89 percent of Democrats polled said they were either very interested or somewhat interested in seeing the two top Democratic contenders debating. Commissioned by the group Progressive Choice, a release was sent out in March calling on Democrats to sign a petition on Choice.org
for such a debate. The petition garnered 18,605 signatures.
“There is a stunning disconnect between what Florida Democratic voters value and what is happening on the ground,” said Jamie Fontaine-Gansell, chairwoman of Progressive Choice. “Unfortunately, Charlie Crist is denying Florida progressives the opportunity to hear a healthy debate on the issues by refusing to tell voters where he stands on the issues in a debate with Senator Nan Rich.”
“Progressives in Florida want information about this year’s election,” Fontaine-Gansell continued, “and it's clear they want the issues debated. The ability to raise big-time special-interest money is not the real sign of what makes a leader. We all know you can't buy the Progressive vote. Progressive Choice calls on Charlie Crist to listen to the voters of Florida and debate the issues important to them."
The poll surveyed 852 Florida primary Democratic voters.
Crist repeatedly has said that with Rick Scott expected to raise and spend an estimated $100 million on his re-election bid, he has no choice but to focus exclusively on the incumbent and not concern himself with Rich, the former Senate Minority Leader of the Democrats in Tallahassee before she was term-limited out of office two years ago. But she's not going away — though she is being far outspent by Crist in the Democratic Primary election. Rich appeared Sunday afternoon at the War Veterans Memorial Park in St. Petersburg for the St. Pete Democratic Club's Memorial Day Picnic.
There haven't been many straight-up polls taken regarding Crist and Rich, though there have been polls showing her trailing Scott in a mock one-on-one confrontation.
Progressives throughout the Democratic Party of Florida have expressed misgivings about Charlie Crist's bona fides as a Democrat, and unhappiness that he hasn't engaged at all with Rich, a lifelong Democrat with fairly liberal views on most issues.
Republicans, including Rick Scott, have also been offering moral support for Rich in getting the chance to debate Crist, since they figure it can only damage him before he becomes the likely Democratic nominee later this year.