Defeated presidential and gubernatorial candidates can often throw their running mates under the bus. But it’s strange to see a Florida politician who has built a reputation for tossing principles and allies overboard stand with his former understudy.
American history is full of running mates at each other’s throats. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson clashed in the 1790s and 1800. Jefferson helped undermine Aaron Burr, his first vice president, even ordering him arrested and tried for treason due to his activities out west. John C. Calhoun clashed with John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, the two presidents he served under as vice president. Zachary Taylor’s administration and its allies--namely William Henry Seward--treated Vice President Millard Fillmore like a political enemy. Once Taylor died, Fillmore responded in kind and this infighting helped kill off the Whigs. Confederate VP Alexander Hamilton Stephens had little use for his boss Jefferson Davis. FDR didn’t get along with John Nance Garner, his first vice president, and--thankfully--threw his second VP Henry Wallace to the wolves in 1944. The family which raised to Dan Quayle to national prominence in 1988 killed off his national career when George W. Bush rolled over his father’s understudy on his way to the White House.
Defeated presidential candidates often treat their former allies far worse. Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean over his old running mate Joe Lieberman in 2004. Even while his old understudy John Edwards was running for the Democratic nomination, John Kerry threw his support behind Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election cycle.
Of course there are plenty of former running mates who stuck together. James Cox picked FDR to be his running mate in 1920 and generally supported his old ally, even as other defeated Democratic presidential candidates like John W. Davis and Al Smith were very critical of the New Deal. Paul Ryan went out of his way to say he would back Mitt Romney if he ran again in 2016. Despite being tossed overboard by Gerald Ford in favor of Bob Dole, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller kept the New York delegation behind his boss instead of backing Ronald Reagan at the 1976 Republican convention.
Former Governor and now Congressman Charlie Crist isn’t exactly known for his political loyalty. Carving out a reputation as conservative on crime during his time in the state Senate, Crist first ran statewide as a Republican in 1998 when he took on Senator Bob Graham in what was that prominent Democrat’s last statewide race. Graham won in a blowout but Crist made a good impression on his fellow Republicans. Two years after Graham routed him, Crist bounced back to be elected education commissioner. In 2002, Crist was elected attorney general and, four years later, he was elected governor.
When Mel Martinez announced he would not run for a second Senate term, Crist set his eyes on replacing him. But Republicans weren’t happy with Crist’s support of Barack Obama’s stimulus and the governor continued drifting left during his term, including focusing on banning drilling and vetoing a teacher performance pay measure passed by Republicans in the Legislature. Marco Rubio ran to Crist’s right in the primary and the governor abandoned the GOP to continue his Senate bid with no party affiliation. Rubio blew out Crist in the 2010 Senate race.
Two years later, Crist endorsed Obama for a second term and, at the end of 2012, made his second party switch in as many years when he joined the Democrats. Pairing up with South Florida Democrat Annette Taddeo, Crist was his new party’s standard bearer against Governor Rick Scott in 2014 but came up short in the general election.
While Crist and Taddeo lost to Scott, the former governor continued to have his running mate’s back.
Taddeo, the former chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democrats, decided to challenge then freshman Congressman Carlos Curbelo in 2014 and Crist was clearly behind his old political partner.
“My 2014 running mate, Annette Taddeo, has declared her candidacy to be the next Democratic congresswoman from South Florida. I couldn’t be more excited!” Crist emailed in May 2015. “Many of you were fortunate enough to meet Annette on the campaign trail last year. And if you did, then you know exactly why she’d be such a great representative for Florida’s hard-working families.
“Annette is a successful small-business owner and a working mom,” Crist added. “She’s open-hearted, determined, and hard-working. And when I say hard-working, I’m not kidding: she even started selling oranges from her family’s farm at age 13!
“Annette is running in one of the most competitive districts in Florida and the entire country. But she’s doing it because she understands the everyday struggles facing hard-working South Florida families and is ready to roll up her sleeves and fight for all of us on day one,” Crist insisted. “Annette Taddeo is exactly the leader we need in Congress. And if Democrats are going to be victorious in 2016, we all know that success starts right here in Florida.”
Taddeo came up short against former Congressman Joe Garcia in the primary in 2016 but Crist was far more successful that election cycle. Crist decided to run for Congress. Republican incumbent Congressman David Jolly had been gearing up to run for the Senate but, at the last moment, Rubio decided to run for a second term. Jolly turned his focus to keeping his House seat but Crist edged him in November.
After losing to Garcia, Taddeo emerged again to run for an open state Senate seat which she won in last week’s special election, flipping it from GOP control. Once again, Crist had his old running mate’s back.
“When my running mate Annette Taddeo and I walked off stage together in 2014, many people told us they were sorry for us,” Crist emailed supporters on Wednesday. “We weren't. We were concerned about Florida, but not us -- we're optimists. We gained so much from so many who care so deeply about the future of our state and country. Annette and her family were part of our family. And you made us part of yours.
“Last night, Annette won a campaign for state Senate in Miami and taught us all valuable lessons about life and politics -- to never give up, stay true to yourself, and work hard, no matter the odds,” Crist continued. “She wasn't supposed to win this race, but she did. She won because of you. Because of our values. Because of our work ethic. It's easy to walk off the stage. It's not so easy to walk back on. But that's how we persevere. That's how we keep moving forward -- in politics, in everyday life. It's an honor to serve you, and now alongside our new state partner state Senator Annette Taddeo.”
Crist isn’t exactly known for his consistency but he’s had no problem going to bat for Taddeo. That’s more than he did for his own Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp. In 2010, in the midst of Crist’s party switching drama, Kottkamp ran for attorney general but he lost out to Pam Bondi. The Crist connection simply didn’t help Kottkamp even though he was far more conservative than his boss. Crist’s party switching also helped drive off his old friend and former chief of staff George LeMieux. Despite Crist appointing him to the Senate to replace Martinez, LeMieux backed Rubio in 2010 and has remained a constant critic of the former governor despite their old ties.
Over the years, Crist has had more than his share of pivots and flips. But, three years after he lost to Scott in his bid to get his old job back, Crist still has Taddeo’s back. It's a bit of a strange alliance. Crist has spent his time on the political stage switching positions, parties and jobs. Taddeo has been pulled up by the party leadership and, until last week, was far better known for failing in her electoral bids than actually winning office. It’ll be interesting to see how that alliance will impact Florida since both of them have tried for higher office and the Democrats don’t exactly have the deepest of benches in the Sunshine State.