Vetoing Education Funds Was a Dumb Move, Charlie!

With a stroke of his veto pen, Governor Charlie Crist (photo above) handed the contested Florida Senate seat to Marco Rubio yesterday. By slashing the state’s education funding, he antagonized a lot of voters – especially those along the crucial I-4 Corridor – and ended any chance he had of being elected senator in November.

I didn’t expect Crist to have a lot of affection for schoolin’. At college, he was much more at home on the football field than in the classroom, playing quarterback for Wake Forest and failing the Florida bar exam twice before managing to become a lawyer.

But I didn’t think he would be this dumb.

Nobody in Lakeland, where I live, could be expected to vote for him after he blocked development of a new USF campus that would have meant economic recovery not just for the city but for the entire area. Indeed, Kathleen Munson, president of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in The Ledger as saying Crist has delivered an economic blow to the entire state.

Crist vetoed $46 million allocated for the first phase of a new USF campus, a pharmacy college building and planning for an excellence-wellness center. And he added fuel to the fire by vetoing more than $12 million designated for Polk State College.

I suppose he was trying to show those Tea Party types who support Rubio how fiscally conservative he is. But the tea baggers were never going to vote for him, anyway. His only chance of becoming a United States senator was to woo Democratic voters. Kendrick Meek is polling poorly, and doesn’t stand much of a chance of winning, so some Democrats could have been expected to opt for Crist in an effort to keep Rubio out of Congress.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of the Democratic voters, but he just lost my vote. I guess I’ll vote for Meek, after all, knowing he has no hope of winning. (My fingers would wither if I voted for Rubio.)

Crist also vetoed a $160 million transfer from the state’s road-building fund to the education budget, throwing cold water on any warmth Florida’s teachers might have felt in response to his veto of that draconian education bill recently.

The Republican-turned-Independent candidate now has antagonized just about everybody. He is engaged in a spiteful spat with the Republican establishment, and he has just kicked sand in the face of the education and economic development communities.

Although he was born in Pennsylvania, his family moved to St. Petersburg when he was a child. And the 54-year-old governor has been involved in Florida politics for decades. He should know by now how the state really votes.

You can forget all the rhetoric and look at it this way. Rubio will get a lot of  Hispanic votes just because of his name. Meek will get support from the black community and us “liberals.” Crist can count on a lot of white Floridians – especially in the northern part of the state.

All other things being equal, South Florida would probably favor Rubio and North Florida would belong to Crist. The I-4 Corridor, with the volatile and diverse population attracted by Disney World,  would be up for grabs.

Not any more.

Charlie’s veto just gave the I-4 Corridor to Rubio. Even if the state Legislature overrides his veto, voters will remember it come November.