The Republican Party of Florida was quick to assail Charlie Crist’s first gubernatorial campaign commercial, claiming that while Crist says he supports a higher minimum wage, that hasn’t always been the case.
"Crist voted against raising the minimum wage," the GOP said in a July 8 ad.
With President Barack Obama pushing to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, the issue has become a campaign plank for Crist. The new Democrat has famously said he’s lived "paycheck to paycheck" his whole life, so we were curious if and when he may have voted against a wage hike.
Passing the buck
Crist has spent years in Florida politics holding a number of elected positions, which he recalled when PolitiFact Florida asked the former Republican what he had to say about the GOP’s allegation about his voting record.
"I haven't taken a vote since 1998," Crist told us, referring to his last legislative session as a state senator before a failed run for U.S. Senate. "This is a campaign about the future. While the economy is improving I have come to the conclusion that the minimum wage we have now is not sufficient."
But the Republican Party of Florida told us they were referring to 2004, when he was attorney general.
That year, Florida voters were being asked to decide on a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage by $1, to $6.15 an hour. As attorney general, Crist had no say in whether the popular measure passed or not. It ended up passing, raising Florida’s minimum wage and tying it to inflation. This year it went up 14 cents an hour and is now $7.93.
In 2006, the Tampa Bay Times profiled Crist as he ran for governor. The article said that as a board member of the state’s public-private economic development agency Enterprise Florida, Crist was part of an Aug. 19, 2004, teleconference in which the organization voted unanimously to oppose the minimum wage increase. The vote was a statement of principle that business leaders did not endorse the wage hike.
We asked Enterprise Florida about the vote. Spokesman Sean Helton checked the meeting minutes and found that yes, the board did take a voice vote on the proposal and unanimously opposed it. Then-Attorney General Charlie Crist was present at the meeting.
We asked Crist’s campaign to comment on whether Crist had voted against the proposal. They didn’t comment on the Enterprise Florida vote.
The Crist campaign referred us back to coverage from 2006, when the Times asked Crist in 2006 while running for governor how he felt about the minimum wage increase of 2004. "I don't think I had a problem with it," Crist said then.
There is scant mention of Crist’s stance on the issue beyond that. It wasn’t a part of his 2006 gubernatorial run, and he hasn’t discussed it until this year’s election, when he made it a part of his campaign promises. Gov. Rick Scott has often couched his lukewarm discussions about the wage as a potential detriment to businesses.
The Republican Party of Florida said, "Crist voted against raising the minimum wage."
We should note that the vote in question was not the kind of vote people would usually think of when it comes to the minimum wage. Crist has never voted on legislation about the minimum wage in any official capacity.
But Crist was at a 2004 meeting of a business advocacy group, and there was a unanimous voice vote expressing the organization’s opinion against raising the minimum wage. Crist was at the meeting, but none of the votes were recorded.
Other than that, we can’t find any evidence of Crist publicly opposing or supporting minimum wage increases, until his recent campaign.
We rate the statement Half True.
YouTube video, "Sunshine," July 7, 2014
YouTube video, "Not Buying It," July 8, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "Florida to vote on minimum wage," July 28, 2004
Tampa Bay Times, "Crist: a shrewd leader who favors a pragmatic style," Oct. 22, 2006
PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott brags about Florida's declining unemployment rate," Sept. 17, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, "Rick Scott, Charlie Crist and the minimum wage," Jan. 13, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "Democrats call attention to raising Florida's minimum wage, but it's a losing battle," April 11, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "First Charlie Crist TV ad supports higher minimum wage, equal pay for women," July 7, 2014
Interview with Charlie Crist, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, July 10, 2014
Interview with Sean Helton, Enterprise Florida spokesman, July 10, 14, 16, 2014
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