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Nancy Smith

Where's Charlie Now? Democrats Want Nan Rich and Charlie Crist on Stage

May 26, 2014 - 6:00pm

Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic-leaning pollster if ever there was one, released a poll Tuesday affirming Democrats want to see primary gubernatorial rivals Charlie Crist and Nan Rich debate each other.

"He's being called 'the People's Governor,'" says Tampa-based website Creative Loafing, "so will (Charlie Crist) listen to his now-fellow Democrats when it comes to their wish that he debate Nan Rich?"

Though the poll is not listed on PPP's website, Jamie Fontaine-Gasnell, chairwoman of Progressive Choice, said her organization sponsored and paid for the poll.

"There is a stunning disconnect between what Florida Democratic voters value and what is happening on the ground," Fontaine-Gansell said when releasing the survey results. "Unfortunately, Charlie Crist is denying Florida progressives the opportunity to hear a healthy debate on the issues by refusing to tell voters where he stands in a debate with Sen. Nan Rich."

Progressive values are under attack in states like Florida, where women's rights are being restricted and strong female voices are being silenced, she said.

"Progressives in Florida want information about this year's election," Fontaine-Gansell continued, "and it's clear they want the issues debated. The ability to raise big-time special-interest money is not the real sign of what makes a leader. We all know you can't buy the Progressive vote. Progressive Choice calls on Charlie Crist to listen to the voters of Florida and debate the issues important to them."

Progressive Choice sent out a release in March urging Democrats to sign a petition on for such a debate. The petition reeled in 18,605 signatures.

The poll surveyed 852 Florida primary Democratic voters, Fontaine-Gasnell said.Sunshine State News has not yet seen the poll methodology.

News of the poll results has to come as a shock to Crist, who has consistently dismissed Rich as a lesser opponent. Crist claims he is focused on Gov. Rick Scott, and with Rich trailing him badly in the polls, he says he is justified to jump over her, in spite of her liberal bona fides.

Florida Democrats apparently don't agree with him.

Notably, Rick Scott and Bill McCollum didn't jump over each other in their 2010 primary. They debated without question or issue.

Rich, welcomed enthusiastically at War Veterans Memorial Park in St. Petersburg for the local Democratic Club's Memorial Day Picnic, is unimpressed with the former Republican governor's money-raising superiority -- much of it coming from attorneys inside and outside of the state.

Meanwhile, the media continue to focus on the group Progressive Choice, which they suspect is an operation run by Republicans.

On its Facebook page the group says leader Jamie Fontaine-Gansell runs a Baltimore political advocacy firm and "has been pushing women's and LGBT issues for 20 years."

But, when asked by email, she would not tell the Miami Herald who is funding the mailers, robocalls and Web advertising Progressive Choice is paying for.

Here is what Fontaine-Gansell told the Herald: "I will not at this time provide the names of these supporters because their only motivation is to engage and have a meaningful impact," she wrote. "They did not ask to be placed in the spotlight or bullied by operatives with clear (or not so clear) corporate and political agendas all while important issues like access to health care, more investment in public education and workforce advancement are buried by shadowy horse race coverage."

According to Progressive Choice, the PPP poll was conducted May 14-15 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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