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MIAMI (AP) — Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that current Republican Gov. Rick Scott "has no integrity" and his policies are driven by "the almighty dollar."
Crist made the remarks while discussing his campaign to seek his old job with his new party during an hour-long interview with Associated Press reporters that covered education, the environment and claims by Scott.
The gubernatorial campaign has been one of the most negative in Florida history. Crist accused Scott of running a dishonest ad in which a man says he was swindled by Crist and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. Crist said Rothstein was a political donor who also gave money to the Republican Party of Florida and President George W. Bush, among others.
"Once we knew what he had done, we returned it all and my opponent in this race knows that. My opponent has not returned anything he took from you and they should," Crist said.
Scott was CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain during a federal investigation into Medicaid fraud. After Scott stepped down, the company agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines to settle the case. Scott spent millions of his own money to win office four years ago when he received less than half the votes cast.
"He won by like 1 percent after spending $75 million his company stole from all of us," Crist said.
"I have integrity, he does not," Crist said. "Let's talk about education, let's talk about the environment, let's talk about the Everglades, let's talk about the middle class that suffers."
The Associated Press also invited Scott for an interview, but he declined.
When told of Crist's remarks, Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair said, "As Charlie realizes that no one is buying what he is selling, he is becoming increasingly angry and nasty in his personal attacks on the governor. From comparing Rick Scott to Al Capone, to calling him evil, to accusing the governor of killing Floridians, these are desperate statements from a desperate man."
On education, Crist said he wants to reduce the number of standardized tests in public schools and that he supports a merit pay system for teachers that involves principals and parents and not just test scores.
And while he previously supported the idea of charter schools, he said they now concern him.
"They have essentially become profit centers rather than learning centers. They're helping my opponent raise a lot of money and I think I've figured out why. They like making the money that they're making," Crist said. "A lot of what I see out of this administration is driven by the almighty dollar and it concerns me and it bothers me and we need to have schools become learning centers again."
Crist accused Scott of also doing nothing to help stop rising utility rates. Crist called for a greater emphasis on alternative energy sources.
"We ought to have more solar energy development in Florida and wind and they're standing in the face of it. They're trying to hold back the future. We're the Sunshine State. It makes no sense until you look at the fact that (power companies) have given him millions of dollars," Crist said.
Crist chose to run for Senate in 2010 instead of seeking a second term as governor. He entered the race as a Republican, but ended up running as an independent after falling behind in the GOP primary. He registered as a Democrat in 2012 and entered the governor's race nearly a year later.
Scott and Republicans have used the party switch against him, saying he is a political opportunist who can't be trusted.
"I haven't changed that much at all. What has changed politically over the last four or five years is my former party and it's been a titanic shift," Crist said. "Jeb Bush has said it better than I can ever say it, that today's Republican Party appears to be, if not actually is, anti-women, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-education, anti-environment."
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