Charlie Crist finds love at Labor Day union event in Eastern Hillsborough County

CL asked if he had ever done many events before unions on Labor Day, or any other day for that matter in the past - when he was a Republican? "As a matter of fact, I have in fact," he said.  "I've always had the great support of law enforcement unions, very proud of that.  And it just seems to be growing every single year and I've very pleased with that.

Later Windy March of the Tampa Tribune followed up, and asked him to name any other unions other than law enforcement who have supported him in the past.  "Carpenters," he immediately blurted out, but when asked when, he said he had no idea (March wrote in today's Tribune that it was the Florida Carpenters Regional Council, which backed him for governor in 2006).

Adam Smith of the Times asked Crist why Democrats should choose him over their nominee, Kendrick Meek.  "Well, I think they want a proven leader.  Somebody who can get things done in Washington and I think that our record accomplishment really shows that...our record on education, on the environment I think are things that would appeal to them.  So I think we've got a great shot to do well across the board."

CL asked about his contradictions (i.e. flip flops) on the campaign trail that has been getting increasing attention in the media  Fair assessment? "No, I think what I represent is somebody that can look for the good in one issue, and I'm the only candidate who can really do that.  You know, no matter what the issue might be, Republican candidates or Democratic nominees, they're kind of locked in with what they can do.  They have to either love something or say that it's a terrible.  See, I don't have the obligation to do that.  As an independent candidate I can say 'well there might be some good things about this bill, and there might be some parts that aren't so good.'That's what America is all about."

In addition to the endorsement from the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Local Union 123, Crist has been endorsed by several Teamster locals throughout the state.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Randy Pines spoke to the crowd about those endorsements:

"You know our Teamster members, we are registered all over the spectrum.  You name it, we have it.  But I can tell you this: most of our members walk right down the middle of the road.  We do all the work, and we pay most of the taxes, and shame on us if we don't elect somebody that's going to represent the PEOPLE of Florida."

"We believe Charlie Crist is the man who can represent us, the man who can go to Washington simply about the Floridians, our issues in this country....he's got one promise that he made to us -that he will represent the people of the state of Florida  regardless of what letter they got behind their name, and that's what we need in this country."

Former Local 123 official Ed Robertson said of the endorsement of Crist. "He's kind of middle of the road, and we need something in politics that's not so crazy, you know.  (On Kendrick Meek) I met him once in Tallahassee but I don't about his politics.  I know he stood up to Jeb Bush once....We're going with Charlie Crist because we don't think Kendrick Meek is going to have a chance.  We think he's a guy we need.  We need somebody who's not so divisive.  It's horrible up there...the country's going down the tubes....We need some common sense.. I'm a lefty, man.  My wife's union is a school teacher, she's supporting him.  This is the first time we've had a Republican ever....I guess he's not anymore is he?  It's kind of strange."

It's a tradition for organized labor to hold public events on Labor Day.  And it's a tradition that Democratic candidates attend such events.  Republicans? It's not really their thing.

Which is why Charlie Crist's appearance at the Florida Pipe Trades Labor Day picnic in Dover on Monday felt so unusual.  The Governor is a man without a party, but he's getting by with a little help from his friends - in this case, organized labor, whose endorsements count, especially when they don't go to a Democrat.

Driving south on McIntosh Road in Dover leading up to the event, Crist signs were implanted on the grass lining the main road for miles away.  Upon entering, it was apparent that nearly everyone, including many children, were wearing either T-shirts on stickers proclaiming support their support for the Governor for U.S. Senate.

"I'm tired of the gridlock in Washington D.C," Crist said in his remarks to those in attendance.  "I'm tired of the parties getting so caught up in the political argument of the day, they forget they're supposed to work for you every day.  For the people first, not the party first.  That's what's wrong with Washington right now, no matter what issue you want to talk about, they can't get anything done.  I'm running against two people who are ....already lodged in to what they have to say, what they have to believe, what they have talk about before thinking about you first.  That's not what democracy is supposed to be all about.  It's supposed to be about the people."

Oh yes, "the people." It's the term the Governor invokes constantly.  Sometimes it gets him in trouble, like when he says it's "the people," who'll he'll be caucusing with if elected to go to Washington.

But he's created "the people," to be his natural constituency, since he no longer has the formal backing of the Republican party and can't get the official imprimatur of the Democrats - and since both parties are so unpopular these days, he's able to use that dissatisfaction to his advantage, as he can now say he's above the fray of partisan warfare.

Speaking on Labor Day, Crist boasted about how he's stood by working men and women in his time in Tallahassee, saying, "when the Legislature wanted to reduce your health benefits. I said no, and stood up for the people instead, and that's what I'll do as your United States Senator. When the Legislature said they were going to cut your salaries, the state workers, your salaries of up to 4%, I said no....When the Legislature said they were going to embarrass school teachers by passing Senate Bill 6, that they were in essence punish them, I said 'no', and used that veto pen, and that's what I'll do as your United States Senator."

Crist spent about 15 minutes shaking hands and taking photos with union members and their children when he first entered the Dover training center before taking questions from reporters.


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