Democratic CFO candidate William Rankin attacks Jeff Atwater’s job performance

Charlie Crist isn’t the only former Republican-turned-Democrat running for major statewide office this November: Chief Financial Officer candidate William Rankin wants to join him.

The 54-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman said that despite a meager background in politics — he served as budget director for Jack Kemp’s 1996 vice presidential campaign — he represents the best interests of Floridians. That’s certainly more than current CFO Jeff Atwater can claim, he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Friday.

Rankin said he decided to run for CFO because he was tired of the rancor and misguided action in state politics. He said he switched in 2004 from being a Republican to an independent for eight years for similar reasons. As a former Army police officer and fraud investigator, he said he opposed the Iraq War for being unjustified and “did not want to be connected” to the Bush family or the Republican platform any longer, despite his prior connections to Kemp and Bob Dole, whom he described as moderate.

He said he registered as a Democrat in 2012 after repeated requests by state Democrats to run for office. The state Democratic party currently is not supporting Rankin, and he has been left out of Democratic campaign events.

His discussion with the Times was light on details about what he would do if elected, but said he would immediately work to show voters that Atwater and Republicans were being misleading about the state’s retirement fund for workers being insolvent. He said Tallahassee had shifted the burden to workers to pay in 3 percent to the pension fund under the guise that all obligations couldn’t be paid, when the fund was never designed to pay all obligations at once, anyway.

He also said as a member of the elected Cabinet, he would propose to the governor and agricultural commissioner to create an insurance reform commission to revamp how the industry operates in the state. He said the current Office of Insurance Regulation “has no teeth” and that insurance companies do whatever they want in Florida.

“They act with impunity, and they know it. And they have the full support of this governor, and this CFO, and the entire Cabinet, and that’s why, in large part they are funding their campaigns,” Rankin said. “I know Atwater’s already received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the insurance companies and insurance executives.”

Rankin said Atwater, a former state representative and senator, “had little qualifications to be CFO,” despite a background in banking. He said the CFO does a lot more than handle finances, and Atwater has failed as an independently elected advocate for Florida’s residents.

He accused Atwater of abusing his office to serve as a “lapdog of Rick Scott” and promote conservative legislation and viewpoints. Rankin used Atwater’s former position with Riverside National Bank as an example of how the Republican doesn’t take responsibility for his actions (Atwater’s opponent in 2010, one-time state representative Loranne Ausley, used a similar attack).

Atwater was a former executive vice president for marketing but left in 2009, before the bank was shut down in 2010 by federal regulators the following year for being unable to meet debt obligations. He claimed he was not in charge of financial decisions and was not a member of the bank’s board of directors. Some brochures had listed Atwater as bank president for Palm Beach and Broward counties.

“He doesn’t do anything wrong, because he really doesn’t do anything at all, and I really thought that the people of Florida deserve something more,” Rankin said. He added that Atwater has shown voters he didn’t want to be CFO after his controversial inclusion as a finalist candidate to be president of Florida Atlantic University, and has failed to deliver on promises of job growth and lower insurance rates.
“Here we are, four years later, and we have no more sustainable jobs than we had when he started and insurance rates are higher than when he started.”

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