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Rep. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida turned House Democrat, on Tuesday announced his candidacy for governor, as he seeks for a second time to try and regain his old job steering the Sunshine State.
"Florida should be a place where hard work is rewarded, justice is equal, and opportunity is right in front of you. That's a Florida for all — and that's why I'm running for Governor," Crist wrote on Twitter as he launched his campaign.
And in an accompanying video, Crist took aim at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s running next year for a second term as Florida governor.
"Today Florida has a governor that’s only focused on his future, not yours," Crist claimed.
And he charged that "while COVID took the lives of 35,000 Floridians, DeSantis attacked doctors and scientists. He blocked health insurance for 800,000 Floridians, refusing to expand Medicaid. Denied unemployment benefits to women who were pregnant and handed out vaccines to his wealthy contributors while seniors were left waiting."
Crist also attacked DeSantis for "stripping away your voting rights. He’s against a $15 minimum wage. He doesn’t believe in background checks for guns, doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose, doesn’t listen, doesn’t care and unless you can write him a campaign check, you don’t exist."
The Republican Governors Association immediately took aim at Crist as a politician who wants to "abolish the electoral college, thanks God for Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer, and spent his time as a Democratic fundraiser trying to give socialists like AOC more power."
Crist, a Republican state senator from 1993-1999, later served as Florida Education Commissioner and then Attorney General before being elected governor in 2006.
Instead of running for re-election in 2010, Crist ran for the open Senate seat in Florida. He was initially the front-runner in the GOP primary against then-former state House speaker Marco Rubio. But politically wounded by his support of then-President Obama’s stimulus package and his hugging of the president during a trip to Florida, Crist soon trailed Rubio in the polls.
Crist later dropped out of the Republican primary and ran for the Senate as an unaffiliated candidate. He came in a distant second to Rubio in the general election, with the Democratic candidate finishing third.
After becoming a Democrat, Crist unsuccessfully ran for his old job as governor in 2014, narrowly losing to GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. Crist was elected to the House in 2016, winning re-election in 2018 and last November. He represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Crist put video of the infamous Obama hug in his new launch video, as well as a clip of the then-president saying "I want to give a special thanks to your governor… Charlie Crist."
RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez charged that "the only thing about Charlie Crist that hasn’t changed since his last two runs for statewide office is that Florida still can’t trust Charlie."
And she argued that "Floridians have rejected Crist as a statewide candidate twice already, and whether it’s in the Democratic primary or the general they’ll do the same again this time."
Crist will make a formal announcement of his candidacy in a late Tuesday morning speech in The Deuces, an historic Black neighborhood Crist’s home base of Saint Petersburg.
In his video he touted that as governor he "got a lot done for Florida."
"We protected 27,000 acres of the Everglades, saved the jobs of 20,000 teachers, cut property taxes for our seniors, lower the cost of prescription drugs, expanded children’s health care with KidCare, restored voting rights for 150,000 Floridians who did their time and we pulled together to pull our state out of the Great Recession," Crist spotlighted.
And pointing to his work in Congress, he emphasized that "when COVID took hold in Florida, I took action in Congress: loans for small businesses that saved a million Florida jobs. We got stimulus checks, tax cuts, and new unemployment benefits. I worked with President Biden to get more vaccines in more arms and funding for our schools to get them open, safely."
Defeating DeSantis won’t be easy in a state where Democrats have suffered at the ballot box in recent years. DeSantis won the governorship with a razor-thin victory in 2018, but then-President Donald Trump carried the state by three and a half points over now-President Biden last November.
DeSantis, a Trump ally, has become very popular among conservatives in his home state and nationwide the past year for his resistance to lockdowns and COVID restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. He already raised a very large war chest for his 2022 re-election, and he’s also considered a potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.
It’s also highly doubtful Crist will have the Democratic field to himself.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat currently holding statewide office, is expected to soon launch her own gubernatorial campaign.
And Rep. Val Demings, who made history as Orlando’s first female police commissioner and who last summer was on Biden’s list of potential running mates, is also seriously mulling a bid for governor.