HOLMES BEACH -- Charlie Crist emphasized he represents the people of Florida while Gov. Rick Scott represents big business at a lunch fundraiser Monday at the Beach Bistro at Holmes Beach.
"I am the opposite of him in every way you can imagine. I care about you. I care about teachers, I care about that beach, I care about our environment, I care about the middle class, I care about the poor, I care about the disabled and I care about veterans," Crist said. "He's heartless."
Crist was personable with the supportive, cheering sell-out crowd of 50 while encouraging attendees to do everything they can to get out the vote. Tickets were $100 per head.
He said he is "optimistic" about results in the Nov. 4 election and told the crowd: "If we turn out, we win."
Crist painted himself as the moderate candidate, addressing criticism about switching from the Republican Party to an Independent and then a Democrat. He said his values didn't change, the Republican Party values changed.
"Remember that we used to work together to help our Florida, to help education, to get us through a tough time together," Crist said.
Crist said he wanted to say yes to high-speed rail, Medicaid expansion and more bipartisanship in Tallahassee.
"I think the first real blast of how bad this administration could be was him rejecting the high-speed rail. I was like, are you kidding, really?" Crist said. "Why in the world would you reject 60,000 jobs, $2.4 billion injected into Florida and maybe a little less traffic on the interstate. Am I missing something here? It's nonsense versus common sense."
In response, Greg Blair from the Scott for Florida campaign emailed this statement: "Charlie Crist wants to put taxpayers on the hook for a project that will lose money. States like California have seen billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on high-speed rail -- the only person who would be surprised when the same thing happens in Florida would be Charlie Crist."
Crist wasn't shy about aligning with President Barack Obama, for which the Scott campaign has criticized him.
"Let's get a governor who actually respects our president," Crist said.
In response to Crist's claim Scott represents big business over individuals, Blair emailed the Herald a statement shortly after this story ran online Monday: "Charlie Crist didn't seem to care much about Florida's families when he oversaw an economic tailspin that put 832,000 Floridians out of a job. Charlie Crist is a career politician who doesn't stand up for anyone but himself."
Republican Party of Manatee County Chairwoman Kathleen King said she had similar sentiments.
"We lost 828,800 jobs under Charlie Crist's administration, and Gov. Scott's created 643,000 jobs from January 2011 to June 2014," she said. "Gov. Scott's record is so much more solid on job creation than Crist's."
King said Crist's job records speak for itself: "It's not that good."
In addition, King said Scott cut taxes 40 times.
"Those impact families every day -- business income taxes, sales taxes, tax-free holidays," she said. "Those are all things that help families."
According to King, Scott "cares about families and individuals by creating jobs and cutting taxes."
Several well-known area Democrats attended, including Patty Benson, chairwoman of the Manatee County Democratic Party; David Zaccagnino, Holmes Beach commissioner and mayoral candidate; Katie Pierola, former Bradenton Beach mayor; and Andy Sheridan, Holmes Beach City Commission candidate.
Benson, an event organizer, said it was all about helping Crist get elected. She said she had only seen Scott represent companies, but not people.
Sean Murphy, owner of the Beach Bistro, said he volunteered his restaurant for the event because he's always been a fan of Crist.
"I think the more people we can find closer to the middle, the better off we'll be," Murphy said.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, contributed to this report.