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Charlie Crist on passing over Diaz-Balart's judicial pick

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said yesterday that Gov. Charlie Crist knows the reason why he and brother Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart rescinded their endorsements of his Senate bid. "The governor knows why we withdrew and he left us with no choice," he said.

The reason, sources familiar with the situation say, is that Crist overlooked a candidate for a North Florida judgeship who is friendly with Lincoln's son. But as Crist loses ground to Cuban-American rival Marco Rubio in the Senate race, the last thing he needs is to get into a war of words with two Hispanic members of congress. Asked today if they withdrew their support because of the judicial appointment, Crist said: "No comment. The whole situation saddens me."

Diaz-Balart would not say yesterday whether the judicial pick was the reason, but he did restate his support for his preferred candidate, Frank Allman, who met his law student son when he interned at the Gadsden County State Attorney's Office.

In an obvious screw-up by Crist's staff, a spokesman for the governor says he never saw the letter from Diaz-Balart. The Gadsden County judge Crist appointed over Allman, Kathy Garner, is the first African-American and first woman to serve on the bench of the predominantly black county. "I believed her to be the best qualified,'' Crist said today.

One person in the whole saga who isn't holding a grudge is Allman, a prosecutor and former police officer. He wrote a gracious concession letter congratulating Garner that ran in the Nov. 15 edition of the Tallahassee Democrat.

On Monday Kathy Garner will take office as a Gadsden County Judge, appointed by the governor to
replace the Honorable Stewart Parsons, who is retiring. Along with five other attorneys, I applied for the position of county court judge. I applied because I love this county and wanted to serve its people, about whom I care so much. The application and vetting process is complicated and intense. During the more than 13 years I have lived and worked in Gadsden County I have been privileged to meet and get to know so many wonderful people who live here. I was truly humbled by all of the support I received. Thank you all so very, very much. You are the reason my wife and I choose to live in and raise our children here in beautiful Gadsden County.However, the appointment process is now over, and we have a new county judge. Kathy Garner deserves our respect and our support in her new position. I ask all the people of Gadsden County to welcome Judge Garner as she takes the bench and wish her the best.