Gov. Charlie Crist says he doesn't think much about his legacy. To hear his critics talk, perhaps it's just as well.
As the first Florida governor to forgo a re-election bid, Crist has little more than a year left in his term. Already, the Republican's tenure appears destined to be marked by incomplete grades on issues such as property insurance, health coverage for the uninsured, climate change and the economy.
"Charlie is breaking a 40-year record of governors who wanted to seek another four years to complete their agenda of what they thought was important to the state," said Bob Graham, a two-term Democratic governor who also served three terms as a U.S. senator. "As an indicator of whether he can keep his eye on the things that are important to Floridians, I would say the jury is still out."
Graham named three areas where he thinks Crist needs to show meaningful progress to bolster his claims of effectiveness: spending stimulus dollars in ways that immediately create jobs as the state's unemployment rate approaches 11 percent; making health insurance available to more uninsured children in the taxpayer-subsidized Florida KidCare program; and enrolling more uninsured in Cover Florida, the low-cost and bare-bones initiative that has just 4,000 members in a state with 4 million uninsured.
"He may be right. Time will tell," Crist said.
University of Florida historian David Colburn, who has written extensively on Florida's governors, said Crist has a unique rapport with Floridians "unlike any I recall in the post-World War II era." But on two key issues -- property insurance and the need to revitalize the economy -- it's a very different story, he added.
"His effort to reform the insurance industry has been a disaster," Colburn said. "He has done nothing to examine the economic crisis before us, what the state should do to avoid another crisis, and how the state can emerge from this crisis stronger."
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