THE BLOG
10/23/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

Voting in Absentia: Why I Would Cast My Ballot for Charlie Crist in Florida

Occasionally, refugees who have settled in the US, including naturalized citizens, cast ballots in elections that take place in their origin countries that allow them to vote in absentia and in effect allow them to still have an impact on events in those countries.

I used to live in Florida. As I watch the contest between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, I wish I could vote in the election in my former home like these foreign nationals do.

The outcome of the governor's race in New York where I now vote is basically over. But the race between Scott and Crist is very close and very important, not just to Florida but the nation.

This race pits a "moderate" Republican populist turned Democrat against a 1 percenter governor who basically bought his first term and who has failed to translate his success in business to his work in government.

The Florida election is a barometer of whether the Tea Party movement that Scott used to win in 2010 remains a force in politics. The race is a test of whether voters are tired of viral politics and now want moderate political leaders.

As a grassroots organizer for the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 in Palm Beach County, I considered Charlie Crist, despite his flip-flopping and some of his conservative social positions at the time, a man who represented the Republican culture that I favored in upstate New York GOP politics.

Crist could have easily run in Long Island and won because he reached across the aisle. He also showed empathy toward citizens, particularly minorities, that many Republicans in the South still fail to do. I watched him work at Howley's Restaurant in West Palm Beach one day during a stump with John McCain. No politician can work a room better than Charlie Crist.

Crist is one of the few GOP politicians to take on FPL, the insurance lobby and other powerful groups that threaten the standard of living of Florida's middle class. What sold me on Crist was when in 2008, there was a call to extend voting hours because polling places were so crowded with Democrats eager to vote for Barack Obama. Despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise, Crist extended voting hours.

It was this attitude that lead to his downfall in the Florida GOP. Crist also was doomed because the party is saturated with Bush loyalists consumed by conservative dogma and Tea Party fanatics.

I moved to Florida around 2000. In contrast to the rapidly declining upstate New York of the time, Florida had remarkable growth at that time. At first, I thrived. When I left a decade later, to return to the economically depressed Catskill Mountains of my origins, I had lost everything in the real estate crash.

My American dream was crushed by big mistakes I made and by a greedy and poorly regulated Wall Street. Neither Rick Scott nor Pam Bondi did anything to ease the damage of the collapsing real estate market in Florida. Hundreds of thousands of middle class people lost their homes, their businesses and their hopes and dreams.

I probably will return to Florida someday to live. I want to live in a multicultural and multiethnic state that is governed by tolerant and pragmatic leaders rather than politicians who try to impose their religious beliefs on citizens, discriminate against racial minorities and pander to big agricultural, insurance and financial monopolies that are destroying the middle class.

That's why, if I could, I would vote for Charlie Crist.

Published in Context Florida on October 22, 2014

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary (stevenkurlander.com) and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y. Column courtesy of Context Florida.