Will you tune in to governor - or the evening news?

We'll have an evening State of the State for the first time since 1991.

By Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published February 20, 2008

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist will break with tradition next month when he gives the annual State of the State address in the evening in hopes of reaching a statewide TV audience.

But his timing could pose a problem. Crist is aiming to give the speech at 6 p.m., a time when most stations are delivering a local news broadcast.

The speech is traditionally a daytime event, delivered midday in the joint opening session of the Legislature. The date is Tuesday, March 4, this year.

Crist said he got the idea from fellow governors during a lunch discussion with governors of Georgia and Alabama and U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, a former governor of Idaho. The occasion was a December meeting on regional water policy.

"It was Secretary Kempthorne who asked me. He said, 'When you deliver your State of the State, when do you do that?' I said, it's around the lunch hour," Crist said.

Kempthorne told Crist "there was good coverage" when he switched his annual speech from day to night. Crist said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue related a similar experience.

The last time a Florida governor gave a nighttime State of the State address was in 1991, the first year of Democrat Lawton Chiles' administration. His 20-minute address was carried live from the Governor's Mansion. That also was the first year of a response by the minority party.

Chiles' 7 p.m. speech was coordinated with the Florida Association of Broadcasters and was carried on 35 to 40 stations statewide. But Pat Roberts, the association's executive director, said he's not been contacted by the governor's office to arrange a similar broadcast this year.

Crist said he had not asked network affiliate stations to pre-empt their newscasts to carry his talk. "That's up to the people in the private sector to decide," he said.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or 850 224-7263.