TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist had nothing good to say about Gov. Rick Scott while another Democrat, former state Sen. Nan Rich, didn't have anything complimentary to say about either Wednesday during a gathering of Florida politicians attending the 20th annual legislative planning session hosted by The Associated Press.
Scott succeeded Crist as governor in 2011 after the latter became an independent in an ill-fated run for the U.S. Senate.
Rich told attending journalists that she was the only true Democrat seeking to oust Scott and took several shots at Crist, who switched parties yet again to make the 2014 race just four years after giving up the governor's seat.
"The voters generally want new leadership and new direction for Florida," Rich said.
"You can't fool all the people all the time," Rich said, noting that Crist now was making excuses about his Republican days as a conservative Republican.
She also criticized Crist for not agreeing to debate her during their primary contest.
"It's a way of educating the voters as to what the candidates think," she said. "It's about educating the people about the candidates. A way to find out where the candidates are on all the issues."
And while Rich spent a lot of her time targeting Crist, the former governor virtually ignored her candidacy and trained his sights on Scott's time in office and before.
"Ethics matter," Crist said, pointing to Scott's background in the private sector. Scott resigned as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a controversy over the company's business and Medicare billing practices. Although the company eventually admitted to 14 felonies and agreed to pay the federal government more than $600 million, no charges were raised against Scott, who frequently invoked the fifth amendment during testimony in the case.
Both hopefuls blasted Scott for refusing to accept billions of dollars from the federal government that they said could have led to tens of thousands of new jobs in Florida.
Crist said he was much more comfortable politically as a Democrat and had effusive praise for President Barack Obama during his appearance, conceding that his physical embrace of the newly elected Democratic president in Fort Myers five years ago was the beginning of the end for him in the Republican Party.
"It was the hug that killed me as a Republican," Crist said Wednesday.
Crist said he supports Obama's call Tuesday in his State of the Union speech for a $10.10 minimum wage and would work to get one passed in that amount in Florida if elected.
"That's only fair," Crist said.
Scott led off the annual AP event and got in some barbs at Crist, citing problems that he said the state experienced under Crist's term during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history.
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