Governor Crist speaks with students at USF St. Pete
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04/09/10 Arielle Stevenson
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Gov. Charlie Crist.


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Despite a major education vote on Capitol Hill, Gov. Charlie Crist took time to speak with students last night at USF St. Petersburg.

USF St. Petersburg students enrolled in St. Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler’s Florida Politics class were treated to a personal discussion with Crist. Crist’s decisions are often the topics of heated debates every Thursday evening in Troxler’s class, where up-and-coming political junkies hash out the state’s issues. Rumors had circulated recently regarding whether Crist was considering running as an independent in the race for the Senate. Crist maintains those rumors are false.

I’m running as a Republican, and I’m proud to do so, and I look forward to the race ahead. And I think it will turn out well.

Students asked Crist about Florida’s renewable-energy portfolio, such as solar. According to Crist, Florida has risen from dead last in solar-energy production in the country three and a half years ago but has become second in America now.

We have the largest solar array panel in North America, in New Arcadia, Fla. Now, I’m not a huge fan of utility companies, but [Florida Power and Light] deserves enormous credit for doing the right thing in doing that. We also permitted for the first time in about 30 years a nuclear power plant—in Florida. And, you know, some like it; some don’t. I understand that. But it’s clean, and it provides a ton of juice.

Crist’s relationship with the sugar industry and the state has always been controversial. Then he announced that Florida planned to purchase land from sugar companies in the Everglades. Students asked Crist whether he still supported the then-$1.75 billion deal now.

So it strikes me, since they were at least a willing seller, if we could return it to the way God put it together—pretty good architect—that that would be the natural flow, would be the way to go. And it won’t raise taxes; it’s done by bond. It’s an amazing, life-giving estuary. I mean, there’s nothing like it. And we have a chance here to actually preserve it, and save it. I just think it’s a great thing.

Last week, the House Select Committee reached an agreement with the Seminole Indians on the gaming compact. $1.5 billion will allow the tribe to operate blackjack and other banked games at their casinos here. Students questioned whether this was a good idea for the state; Crist says it was a financial decision.

The reason I’m doing it’s ’cause we need the money. We need the money. Same reason I did the stimulus: We need the money.

President Obama’s recent energy plan included opening up federal oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling. Crist was asked by students whether he supports those efforts.

The race for Florida’s [Senate] seat is still months away from a vote, but both Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist’s campaigns are already in full gear. Rubio has been on the record criticizing Crist for being too close to Obama. Crist says that’s all part of the game.

There’s an old expression: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. I can take the heat; it doesn’t bother me. You know, I learned a long time ago that if you’re gonna do what I do, you gotta let it roll off your back.

More WMNF coverage of Crist’s Senate campaign:

Crist and Rubio Duke it out on Fox News Sunday

Professor Darryl Paulson weighs in on Crist/Rubio debate

Crist Visits Home Town, Slams Rubio

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