Crist & Gallagher : Just One week to go by Mitch E. Perry

08/29/06

There is only 7 days until the Florida Primary Election. Only 7 more days for Florida CFO Tom Gallagher to convince Republicans that he should be their nominee for Governor this November.

Last night in West Palm Beach, Gallagher and Charlie Crist engaged in their 2nd debate in 6 days – but whether many people in South Florida were paying attention is in question.

With Tropical Storm Ernesto bearing down, the debate was NOT televised in Broward County, one of the top 3 counties for GOP Votes in the state.

Gallagher has tried to use the issues of abortion and Charlie Crist’s support of civil unions as a reason to prove that his rival is not a true conservative, and he compared Crist with Democratic party stalwarts Howard Dean and John Kerry.

But Crist, who according to one poll, has seen his lead drop somewhat after last week’s debate- hit back at Gallagher last night, and said that those issues were significant, but not as important as others (roll tape#1 o.q.�well I don’t see it yet�)

Property Insurance does appear to be most important topic on Florida voters minds this election year – but the complexity of the situation doesn’t allow for so-called bumper sticker solutions.

Tom Gallagher was formerly the Insurance Commissioner of Florida, and helped create the state Insurer of last resort, Citizens Insurance. He defended the company and the Floridians who get their property insurance from Citizens (roll tape#2 o.q.�blow it up? Come on, Charlie�)

Florida’s outgoing Governor, Jeb Bush, continues to amass the highest approval ratings of any politician in the Sunshine state, and has become next to Ronald Reagan, the GOP icon for state republicans. Both candidates have fought over who is the best Republican in the “Jeb Bush tradition�.

Bush was a fierce critic of the 2002 Class Size Amendment – saying it would cost too much . He also has worked hard to try to overturn its since its passage.

Tom Gallagher would also like to overturn it. But Charlie Crist, who initially opposed it, says he will not try to overturn the law. The two exchanged their views on the issue on Monday night (roll tape#3 o.q.�desire to serve�)

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the night came when Crist once again attacked Gallagher ethics and integrity. Citing a Florida Ethics Commission finding of probable cause that Gallagher's day trading and investments may have violated state law, Crist demanded to know how voters could trust that Gallagher wouldn't violate the law while occupying the governor's office. (roll tape#4 oq.�Governors Office�)

Gallagher responded by invoking Ronald Reagan’s line first used in his 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter, but then quickly changed the subject (roll tape#5 o.q.�talk about everything else�)

Less than an hour after the debate, the Gallagher camp sent a memo to the Florida press corps demanding that Crist apologize to Gallagher for claiming he is awaiting trial on ethics charges.

Gallagher campaign strategist Brent Doster says that Gallagher waived his right to a hearing, so all that remains is for the Ethics Commmission to recommend a penalty.

Doster says , that based on precedent, it will “at most be a small fine.�

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