Doug Ohlemeier, eastern editor
Doug Ohlemeier, eastern editor

Off-year governor races usually don’t draw high voter interest and agriculture typically isn’t a driving issue in those races.

The Florida gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist could produce resounding consequences for all the state’s businesses.

It’s flashback time for Crist, the former Democratic governor, oops, make that Republican governor, who had the office before Scott’s 2010 election.

Crist, now a Democrat, was a Republican then.

In 2010, after being defeated in his party’s primary for a U.S. Senate seat, the one-term governor ran as an independent and later became a Democrat after endorsing President Obama, which engendered much distrust.

“There is definitely that fear that someone who will shift back and forth on policy issues, you never know where they’re going to stand,” said Adam Basford, director of state legislative affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

“It’s a concern of ours when you see former governor Crist taking both sides of an issue kind of consistently.”

The nonprofit Gainesville-based farm bureau works with both parties and doesn’t endorse candidates, but its political action committee does and is a big Scott supporter, primarily because of the incumbent’s support for business.

When governor, Crist at the last minute vetoed a bill streamlining the regulatory process between municipalities and the state. The farm bureau worked with legislators who overrode his veto.

In 2012, Scott spent a day picking oranges in a Vero Beach, Fla., grove and packing fruit.

The governor worked at other businesses in the state and his grading, packing and bagging fruit and stacking cartons displayed an impressive work ethic rarely seen among the political class.

Though the Indian River Citrus League also doesn’t officially endorse candidates, nearly all of its members are on board for Scott, said Doug Bournique, executive vice president.

In January, members Bobby and Mary Grace Sexton, co-owners of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., in Fort Pierce, Fla., sponsored a Scott reception that drew 100 people who gave the Scott campaign $50,000, said Bobby Sexton, owner of the Vero Beach-based Oslo Citrus Growers Association.

“He (Scott) actually listens and follows through on things,” Sexton said. “That’s what sets him apart from the others. If the business community of the state doesn’t understand how valuable and good this governor is for them, they’ll be committing suicide if they don’t re-elect him.”

That warning may sound alarmist but the importance of a governor who supports rather than attempts to hinder businesses cannot be overstated.

dohlemeier@thepacker.com

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