The Shifting Politics of Oil: Gov. Charlie Crist

President Obama and Gov. Crist
President Obama and Gov. Crist walk Pensacola's beaches in July, looking at the effects of the oil spill.
TAMPA (2010-8-4) -

Gov. Charlie Crist started as an opponent of drilling off Florida’s coast, then softened that opposition during the 2008 presidential election, and came out against it again after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Crist, formerly a Republican, is now a no-party candidate for the U.S. Senate. He recently called the GOP-led Legislature into session in a failed effort to put an oil drilling ban on November's ballot.

PolitiFact Florida tracked Crist’s stance starting in 1998, when he was adamantly against drilling off Florida’s shores:

- In a June 1998 Florida Times-Union interview during his first U.S. Senate campaign, Crist said, "Having grown up here, it's hard not to feel strongly about the beauty that is Florida. I would and already have fought offshore drilling in Florida, and would continue that fight in Florida."

- In an Oct. 2006 interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Offshore oil drilling, I'm adamantly opposed to it. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up here. I'm a Gulf Coast guy. ... I remember when I was in elementary school, we had an oil spill in Tampa Bay. You may recall that. I literally remember cleaning birds off when that happened."

- At an Oct. 2006 press conference on the qualities Floridians want in a president: "Making sure that we don't drill for oil off our beautiful shore, and, of course, the other traditional things that go along with it."

But in 2008, when gas prices hit record highs and he was under consideration for vice president, Crist softened his position.

"We have to be sympathetic to the pocketbooks of Floridians and what they're paying at the pump for gas and balance that with any way that our state might be able to contribute in terms of resources to have a greater supply and therefore lower prices," Crist said. "I think an open-minded person understands that we ought to at least study (offshore drilling)."

Crist said he’d be in favor of drilling as long as it was far enough from shore, safe enough and clean enough. He never defined exactly what that meant. But he’s said the oil spill has proven drilling is not safe enough.

"Clearly that one isn't far enough and that's about 50 to 60 miles out, it's clearly not clean enough after we saw what we saw today - that's horrific - and it certainly isn't safe enough. It's the opposite of safe." Crist said.

From "Drill, Baby, Drill" to "Spill, Baby, Spill" - the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf has some elected leaders and political candidates scrambling to point out their opposition to offshore drilling - even if they once thought it was a good idea. WUSF has determined where our politicians stood before, and where they stand now on oil drilling.

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