Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek Tout Plans to Stimulate Economy

Associated Press SHARE

MIAMI — Two of Florida's U.S. Senate hopefuls, Gov. Charlie Crist and Congressman Kendrick Meek, on Sunday touted their plans to stimulate the lagging economy.

In an interview taped for CNN's "State of the Union," Crist said extending the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers would help boost home sales in Florida. Crist left the Republican Party this year to run as an independent.

"I think any time you can reduce taxation in order to spur the economy forward, that's a good thing to do and that would be great to do," he said.

Speaking live on the program Sunday, South Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek said he would push for green initiatives and green jobs to stimulate economic growth in Florida. He also favored continuing tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class, partly paid for by rolling back Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy.

Another way to pay for those tax cuts would be moving toward more diplomatic solutions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Meek, the Democratic nominee in the contest. He and Crist will face Republican Marco Rubio in November.

"Getting our combat troops out of Iraq is going to save this country money," Meek said. "... I support making sure that they are secured and that they are safe and that we have force protection, but at the same time, we have to look at the affordability of what we are doing."

The last U.S. combat brigade was pulled out of Iraq this month. Nearly 50,000 soldiers remain in the country even though they won't be carrying out combat missions.

Later Sunday morning on CBS' "Face the Nation," Meek said he was confident President Barack Obama would return to Florida to campaign for him, as he did before the Democratic primary. Meek defeated billionaire Jeff Greene for the party's nomination.

Meek downplayed concerns that Crist will siphon away Democratic votes in a crucial election that will decide which party controls the Senate. He also said Crist and Rubio would be fighting for the tea party vote, with positions "far right" of his own.

"I'm the only candidate in this race that has won by a popular vote in a contested primary," he said. "I look forward to capitalizing on that because there's vast differences between myself and the other two lifelong Republicans that are in this race."

On CNN, Crist evaded the question of whether, as an independent, he would caucus with the Democrats or with the Republicans in the Senate.

"I think the important thing to do is, if I have the honor of winning, (is) ask tough questions," he said.

Crist also dodged questions about whether he still supported former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who criticized Crist at a Jacksonville fundraiser last week for leaving the Republican party.

"I believe that I will win. And what really matters is not somebody from Alaska, but my fellow Floridians, and that's what I'm focused on," he said.

Rubio gave the Republican Party's weekly address. He focused on the economy and government spending, and he said he favors extending tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush that are set to expire in January. He also favors repealing Obama's health care law and ending what remains of the stimulus legislation.

"Today the American dream is threatened by out-of-control politicians in Washington who think that more government deficit spending is what it takes to grow our economy. That has never worked anywhere it's been tried and it won't work now," Rubio said.