On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the George Zimmerman 'not guilty' verdict, Charlie Crist said at a political candidates forum in Tampa this afternoon that "we gotta fix it," when asked his opinion of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law.
"People have the right to defend themselves. Nobody has a problem with that," the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said when asked his opinion about the 2005 state law. "But when you have a situation like that (referring to Zimmerman killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin), where the instigator ends up taking the life of somebody, you know, it's all screwed up. It's just wrong."
Crist made that comment while making an impromptu appearance at the Hillsborough Democratic Black Caucus Political Forum, held at the Bible Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace in North Tampa. That's where he fielded relatively softball questions tossed to him for approximately 20 minutes in front of a mostly African-American audience.
Acknowledging the reality that such a law as SYG can only be repealed or amended through the Legislature, Crist told the crowd that they needed to focus in on the Cabinet and state legislative offices that will also be on the ballot this fall. "We're going to need all hands on deck to change these things," he said.
He brought down the house when asked the familiar question about why he left the GOP back in 2010, saying it was because the leadership of the Republican had "lost their minds."
Once again paraphrasing Jeb Bush, the new Democrat said today's Republican Party leadership is "actually, or appears to be, anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment. I mean, pretty soon, there's nobody left," before adding "anti-immigrant" to his list for good measure. He also replied "right," when a man in the audience threw in that they were "anti-black" as well.
The Crist campaign aired a broadcast ad on television this week touting his support for raising the minimum wage and calling for equal pay for women, his first such foray onto the airwaves after being outspent by at least $12 million on TV advertising by the Scott campaign in 2014. That disparity in getting his message out statewide has undoubtedly hurt his campaign to a certain extent, as his former 5-point lead in the polls he held consistently during the winter and spring has now evaporated.
But while Crist struggled in June, the past week wasn't not one of the better ones for Governor Scott. It began with new questions being asked about Adam Hollingsworth, his chief-of-staff, and his involvement in lobbying to kill the funding for the high-speed rail connection between Tampa and Orlando back in 2011 while helping steer taxpayer funds to Hollingsworth's former employer; to being accused of violating the law after he held a press conference touting his strong on crime record in Tampa while accompanied by a host of on-duty police officers. Problems surfacing in the state's Department of Corrections also provided a series of bad headlines.
The forum in Tampa today also included Democratic Attorney General candidates Perry Thurston and George Sheldon, as well as the candidates for Hillsborough County School Board, County Commission and for the House District 61 race.