It’s a political earthquake in one of the most-watched GOP contests of the year: Gov. Charlie Crist, once considered the odds-on favorite to become Florida’s next senator but now facing fierce Tea Party opposition and lagging in the polls, just lost his campaign chairman.
Former senator Connie Mack, a close friend of Crist’s who was chairing his Senate campaign, resigned his post yesterday. According to the Associated Press, Mack did so to protest Crist’s Thursday veto of a bill that would have tied teacher pay and job security to student test scores.
In a letter to Crist, Mack recounted a friendship of “many years” and said “I prize our relationship.” But the former senator said he considers Crist’s veto “unsupportable and wrong.”
“I can no longer serve as chair of your campaign for the United States Senate,” Mack wrote. “This letter serves as my resignation.”
USA TODAY attempted to contact Mack, but we have been told he is traveling and unavailable for comment. A response from Crist also was pending.
Crist is now running behind former state representative Marco Rubio in a GOP nominating contest that has been targeted by Tea Party organizations. Both the Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks, a Washington-based think tank that has provided some of the organizing muscle behind Tea Party Patriots, are supporting Rubio as the true conservative in the race.
Primary day is Aug. 24. Lately, Crist has been trying to tamp down speculation that he might skip the primary and run as an independent.
Mack was enormously popular in Florida: He won his last statewide election, in 1994, with 70% of the vote. He’s the grandson of baseball’s famed Connie Mack, who for 50 years owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics. The former senator’s son, Connie Mack IV, is a third-term Florida congressman.
Related: Gov. Crist asks teachers to switch to GOP to vote for him in Republican Primary (Fla. is a “closed” primary state, in that voters must vote their party affiliation, and independents do not get a primary vote) http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crists-campaign-asks-teachers-to-change-party-affiliation-578491.html
Gov. Mitt Romney endorses Rubio; a reversal from 2006, when Romney, as GOP Governor’s Chairman, he hand delivered a $1 million dollar check to the Governor’s campaign: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/us/politics/18florida.html