Democrats, Clinton criticize Gov. Scott at dinner

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Bill Clinton,Florida,Debbie Wasserman Schultz,Rick Scott

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Democratic Party used their annual fundraising dinner to bash Gov. Rick Scott — but not to showcase the candidates that hope to replace him.

Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Scott a tea party extremist. Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said Scott has never helped Florida's middle class. And former President Bill Clinton said Scott's economic policies only benefit those that don't need help.

But the candidates hoping to challenge Scott — Republican turned Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich — weren't allowed to address the more than 1,500 party activists who will be asked to help the eventually nominee defeat the governor. That's a change from previous election years when the event was used to highlight candidates.

"I'm disappointed that this is our summer meeting, their last chance to hear from our Democratic primary candidates for governor and we're not going to get to hear them speak," said Alex Sink, the party's last gubernatorial nominee. "This race has to be about what our vision of Florida is. Seriously. I want to hear from Nan Rich and Charlie Crist what they think Florida can be."

Instead, the enthusiasm was saved for Clinton, who spoke for 40 minutes despite battling a hoarse voice. Clinton defended President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and criticized Scott and the state's Republicans for refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.

Clinton said Scott's policies aren't helping the middle class.

"He basically said if you elected him, he'd go back to trickle-down economics," Clinton said, adding that Scott cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations while cutting education funding. "Now, let me ask you something. Why would you do that? ... Why would you choose economic policy that only helps people that don't need any help?"

Clinton urged activists to go out and talk about the need to increase the minimum wage, have equal pay for women and to expand Medicaid. And he noted that while Democrats have carried Florida in the last two presidential elections, they need to keep that same enthusiasm in a non-presidential year.

"Explain, explain, explain and figure out how to get people to the polls," Clinton said.

Earlier, Wasserman Schultz said Scott is wrong on every issue, and mentioned a comment he made earlier this year about how the idea of raising the minimum wage makes him cringe.

"You know what makes me cringe? The thought of four more years of Rick Scott as our governor," she said.

Tant also told the crowd that they have to have energy to fight the "Republican attack machine."

"He's never, not once, looked out for Florida's middle class," she said. "Rick Scott will be a one term governor! You're going to do this!"

The Scott campaign didn't immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.

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Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bsfarrington

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