Escambia County Politics

Crist visits Pensacola

June 18, 2009

Lewis Bear, Jr. and Collier Merrill, III –the 2009 and 2008 IN Power list winners– hosted a fundraiser for Gov. Charlie Crist tonight at The Fish House. State Sen. Don Gaetz introduced Gov. Crist and announced his endorsement of Gov. Crist’s candidacy for U.S. Senate (which is hardly a surprise). Gaetz jokingly said that one reason he was endorsing Crist was because the state senator still had several bills awaiting the governor’s signature. On a more serious note, Gaetz talked about Gov. Crist’s compassion. Gaetz told that crowd about how during the aftermath of Hurricane Katina, then-Atty. General Crist visited a refuge center for New Orleans evacuees and took time away from the spotlight to comfort a mother and her child. I actually wrote about the incident, which happened in Milton back in 2005.

Crist was charismatic during his visit and worked the room well. When he got up to speak, Gov. Crist thanked people by name – which was reminiscent of how the late Superintendent Benny Russell handled a crowd. Crist talked about his admiration for U.S. Connie Mack and Pres. Ronald Reagan. He even brought back Mack’s campaign slogan: “Less taxes, less spending, less government….more freedom.” The crowd ate it up.

The crowd included Republicans and Democrats. Gaetz was there with his wife, Vicky, and his son Matt, who is running for Ray Sansom’s house seat in 2010. Other guests included Public Defender James Owens, Mayor Mike Wiggins & wife Mary Ellen, Brian & Crystal Spencer, David Bear, Belle Bear, Teri Levin, Ashton Hayward, Fred Levin (Power List #1 in 2007), Kay Stephenson, Larry Morris, Garrett Walton and his daughter Sarah, PJC President Ed Meadows, Karen Sindol, Dick & Carolyn Appleyard, Susan Story, DeeDee Ritchie, Corbett Davis, Jr.. Eric Gleaton, State House candidate Clay Ingam and his wife Leslie, Mike Burns. Danny Zimmern, Jennifer Reavis, Jan Cavanaugh Miller, Peter McDavid, Sandy Sansing, Skip Edwards, David Peaden and his wife Susan, Samuel Bearman, Ashley Hodge, Will Merrill, Jim Shirley, Mollye Barrows, Rick Appleyard and others ….I know I missed some people.

Gov. Crist and I talked about the Independent News. When we shook hands, he said, “I love independents.” The governor and I are fraternity brothers – Pi Kappa Alpha. He was one at Florida State, I was at Ole Miss. We shared a few stories. Crist is a year older than I am but we figured out that we must have crossed paths when I visited his frat house in 1977. He was vice president of the FSU student body and I was the student body president at Ole Miss. Crist was a classmate of Mike Papantonio at the Cumberland School of Law. It’s a very small world.

Gov. Crist visited Pensacola after leaving the Eglin Air Force Base Air Armament Museum where he signed a bill creating the Florida Council on Military Base Mission Support.

Two notes:
1) Sen. Gaetz talked about the arrest of John Wyche and the importance of more oversight of charter schools. Gaetz was successful this legislative session in getting charter school reform passed. He said that, except for the IN and the Orlando Sentinel, few newspapers had picked up the issue. Last year, the Senate passed a bill on charter school reform, but the Florida House refused to take up the issue. This year the Olrando Sentinel was able to keep pressure on its delegation to get the bill introduced to the House.

2) A member of the governor’s security detail was Dennis Nordstorm, a former Gulf Breeze police officer.

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