Two Democrats in high-profile 2014 races are calling for embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign over a scandal that has rocked his agency and again placed the spotlight of scrutiny on the Obama administration.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, running for Senate in Kentucky, and Charlie Crist, seeking to regain his old job as Florida governor, are going beyond sentiment expressed publicly by Democrats in Washington, who are overall sticking with Shinseki so far.
Asked whether the former Army general should step down over alarming allegations of delayed care for some veterans with potentially deadly consequences, President Barack Obama said he needed more information, but promised accountability if those assertions prove true.
Shinseki says he has no plans to resign, citing an ongoing internal review and an independent probe by the VA inspector general’s office.
But Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, released a statement on Thursday saying that “his confidence is gone” in the VA’s ability to provide care to veterans.
“I appreciate Secretary Eric Shinseki’s service to his country, and while we don’t know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they’ve earned and deserve,” Crist said.
“I think it would be best if the secretary stepped down and allowed others to get the VA fixed once and for all.”
Grimes also released a statement Thursday calling on Shinseki to step down.
“We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans and must repair the breach of trust,” she said.
Grimes is facing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s trying hard to make this election a referendum on Obama, who lost Kentucky big in 2012 and is highly unpopular now.
Like many Republicans, McConnell has sharply criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the situation, though he has not called on Shinseki to step down or be fired.
Crist’s opponent, Rick Scott, on the other hand, has joined a number of Florida Republicans in calling for Shinseki’s resignation.
Another Democrat running for Senate – albeit in a less competitive race – Rick Weiland, also said Thursday that Shinseki should go.
A CBS News poll released Thursday shows about a third of Americans surveyed think Shinseki is to blame for the VA problems. Republicans blame Obama more than Democrats and independents, who the poll indicated are more likely to fault Shinseki or the local hospitals.