Before speaking to lawyers at Bear Lakes Country Club, Charlie Crist greeted kitchen workers.
WEST PALM BEACH — A second term for Republican Gov. Rick Scott would put “a bunch of ideologues” on the Florida Supreme Court, Democrat Charlie Crist told a trial lawyers group Friday.
Crist also asked members of the Palm Beach County Justice Association to contribute to his campaign to counter the “financial bullying” he expects from Scott, whose campaign has said it expects to raise $100 million for the 2014 race.
Crist was elected attorney general in 2002 and governor in 2006 as a Republican, but became an independent in 2010 and joined the Democratic Party last year.
He told the Democrat-leaning lawyers’ group that as Republican attorney general, he resisted calls to purge Democratic lawyers from his office. And he reminded the audience of about 50 that he bucked the GOP as governor by supporting the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who had served their sentences.
Crist told the group that the next governor could appoint four justices to the seven-member Florida Supreme Court.
“Justice is very important. But if you have a bunch of ideologues on the Florida Supreme Court during the second term of Gov. Scott, how many of your appeals do you think are going to go well?” Crist said.
“If that happens, if we don’t win and he does, forget about it. And I’m not just talking to trial lawyers. I mean, forget about it for minorities, forget about it for women, I mean on down the road – the environment. It affects everything. It’s the only branch of government still keeping us together right now, the judiciary.”
Crist formally entered the race Nov. 1. A committee supporting his campaign raised $2.3 million during the month. A similar pro-Scott committee collected $5.8 million in November.
Crist reminded the lawyers that new campaign laws allow unlimited contributions to such committees and up to $3,000 to his official re-election campaign. He also pointed out that the new law requires monthly campaign finance reports instead of quarterly ones. That means the media and political operatives are looking more frequently at how well a candidate is raising money.
“So every month is real important,” Crist said. “So even during Hanukkah and Christmas, I’ve got to do this.”