GOP ties severed, Crist turns to Democrats for fundraising

Miami Herald/St. Petersburg TimesJune 24, 2010 

TALLAHASSEE — By bolting from the Republican Party, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has one place left to raise big money in his race for the U.S. Senate: Democrats.

A governor who once courted conservatives by calling himself a "Jeb Bush Republican" is getting help from liberal trial lawyers, union activists and even elected Democrats, who are shunning their party's Senate hopefuls, wealthy Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami.

Crist is now an independent, with no party to pay campaign overhead or raise money.

Many Republicans had already given Crist the maximum $4,800 to help amass his $10-million campaign fund before he abandoned the GOP ship in April when polls showed him getting swamped by Marco Rubio in a Republican primary.

In Tallahassee two weeks ago, civil trial lawyer Lance Block hosted a Crist fundraiser at his home that prominent Republicans also attended.

"We need more people like Charlie Crist in Washington to set aside the partisan bickering," said Block, a delegate to three Democratic presidential conventions who played a key role in helping Al Gore during the 2000 Florida vote recount.

Block's host committee included such Democratic stalwarts as former Florida State University president and ex-House Speaker T.K. Wetherell, teacher union lobbyist and lawyer Ron Meyer and Dexter Douglass, a top advisor to former Gov. Lawton Chiles.

"He has always been attuned to what he feels the people need," said Douglass, who donated the $4,800 maximum to Crist's campaign.

Adam Corey, a Republican oil and real estate executive from Fort Lauderdale, described Crist as fiscally conservative and socially moderate, and said he was pleased to see the governor's cross-party appeal.

In Orlando Tuesday, high-profile trial attorney John Morgan, known for his "for the people" billboards, hosted a Crist fund-raiser along with Jim Pugh, a Winter Park businessman who has been a long-time Democratic fund-raiser.

In Siesta Key Monday, Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg was among the Democrats at a Crist fund-raiser at the home of chiropractor Gary Kompothecras, a long-time Crist supporter. Rouson says he has known Crist and his family much longer thanhe has known either Democratic Senate candidate.

"We're trying," Crist says, poor-mouthing his fund-raising, and calling it challenging and difficult, perhaps in hopes that the number he reports in mid-July will exceed expectations.

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