Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist attacks rivals in new book

11:23 AM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) - A memoir by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defends his evolution from a Republican to Democrat, while taking swipes at such rivals as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott.

"The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became A Democrat" is scheduled for early February release. It was co-written by Crist and Ellis Henican.

The book comes out as Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, begins mounting a campaign to oppose Scott in the 2014 governor's race. Crist was elected as a Republican, but switched to an independent in his final year in office. He became a Democrat at the end of 2012.

The memoir describes Crist's upbringing and political career, while also giving some behind-the-scenes details of Crist's political and personal life. He also spells out in the final chapter his campaign platform for this year's election.

Some moments are glossed over quickly, such as the criminal conviction of former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer. Greer had been hand-picked by Crist to run the party.

In the book, Crist criticizes Scott and "his band of right-wing extremists" and said "he's been a terrible governor." He wrote that Rubio changed his political stances to become more in line with the tea party movement.

Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry blasted Crist over his criticism of the incumbent governor.

"Charlie Crist's new career as a fiction writer is exactly what we all expected out of one of the most opportunistic career politicians of all time," Curry said in a statement. "Yet his attempt at re-writing history won't erase the awful experience Floridians endured during his term as governor."

One chapter details how close Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek came to dropping out of the 2010 U.S. Senate race at the urging of former President Bill Clinton. That decision could have helped Crist as an independent defeat Rubio.

Crist writes about having a face-to-face conversation with Meek where Meek told him he would "give it some thought." A joint rally between the two men was planned, but Crist says that at the last minute Meek decided against it and said he didn't want to seem like a quitter.

Other incidents recalled in the book include how he was considered - but then not picked to be John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Crist recalls campaigning that year with vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. He said she campaigned "different from anyone I'd ever campaigned with" and that she sat alone on the campaign bus. Crist said he offered to help her, but she barely talked to him and did not want "engage in conversation."

Crist also calls Karl Rove a "jerk" for yelling and cursing at Crist after Crist decided to bypass aFlorida event with then-President George W. Bush in 2006.

Crist writes about many of his decisions as governor, including one to extend early voting during the 2008 election. He recalls how angry some Republicans were about the decision and told him it would cost GOP nominee McCain the election.

Crist also defends his decision to hug President Barack Obama at a 2009 event to promote the federal stimulus even though it wound up alienating GOP voters. He recalls attending an Alachua County Republican Party fundraiser where someone yelled at him "Why don't you go hug Obama again?"

"I didn't think a thing about it about it as it was happening," Crist writes. "But that simple gesture ended my career as a viable Republican politician. It changed the rest of my life. Reach, pull, release - just like that."

Crist describes himself as "pro-life" in several places, but defends his decision in 2010 to veto a bill that required women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion. He said the legislation was being pushed by "rigid ideologues" in the Florida Legislature.

"In government, don't we have to balance our personal beliefs with an understanding that other people have a right to theirs?" Crist wrote.

Crist also tries to explain his stance on Obama's health care overhaul, saying "all Americans deserve decent health care" and that is an "important step down that road to decency."

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