Charlie Crist
Charlie Crist (Ruth Cincotta)

Former Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled one of the first concrete policy proposals in his campaign to reclaim his old job, promising to use the state’s contracting power to boost wages for some workers and bar discrimination against gay and transgender Floridians.

Crist, a former Republican running as a Democrat, used the “First Day of Fairness” plan to draw a contrast with incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a former health-care executive who is painted by Democrats as beholden to big business.

“Middle-class families across Florida deserve a fair shot at success—but under Rick Scott, it’s the special interests that get all the breaks,” Crist said in a prepared statement. “The First Day of Fairness is about giving middle-class families and small businesses the same opportunities and protections the big corporations have enjoyed under Rick Scott.”

In a nod to the conflicts that would almost certainly bedevil Crist’s relationship with the Republican-dominated Legislature, the plan relies almost entirely on the governor’s ability to influence state contracting. Companies that do business with agencies controlled by Crist would have to boost the minimum wage for workers to $10.10; face new policies on differences in pay between men and women; and be barred from discriminating against gay, bisexual or transgender employees.

State agencies controlled by the governor would also have to treat all employees equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification. The state would also give Florida companies priority for contracts and reinforce open-records laws.

Republicans, who have long called on Crist to release details of what he would do as governor, pounced on the statement to link Crist with President Barack Obama. Some of the executive orders Crist promised would track efforts Obama has undertaken at the federal level.

The current and future Republican leaders of the state House and the Senate condemned what they said would be an overreach by the governor.

“Crist is lifting a dangerous page from President Obama’s playbook, saying he will do an end-run around the people’s elected representatives and single-handedly mandate policies through executive order. … Florida needs a governor who will work with the Legislature and not force his personal agenda on Floridians with the stroke of a pen,” the leaders said in a statement issued by Scott’s re-election campaign.

The statement was issued on behalf of outgoing state House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; state Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican designated as Weatherford’s successor; outgoing state Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville; state Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican set to follow Gaetz; and state Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who chairs Scott’s campaign.

Meanwhile, the two campaigns appeared to agree Tuesday on at least three debates if and when Crist defeats former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich in the Democratic primary and Scott beats a handful of little-known challengers for the GOP nomination. Scott said he would appear at a WSCV Telemundo 51 debate Oct. 10; a Leadership Florida debate Oct. 15; and a CNN debate Oct. 21.

Crist, who has refused to debate Rich, has accepted invitations to the same three general-election debates but wants several more and called Scott’s proposed schedule “a disservice to voters.”