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Florida congressman Charlie Crist, formerly the state’s Republican governor, on Tuesday became the first Democrat to announce his candidacy to face GOP governor Ron DeSantis next year – a must-see race for DeSantis if he is to stand. run for president in 2024.

“At every step of the process, this governor has been more focused on his personal political fortunes than on the struggles of regular Floridians,” Crist said during his announcement rally in his hometown of St. Petersburg. “The truth is, Governor DeSantis let us down.”

Crist, 64, served as governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, but did not stand for re-election. He ran for the Senate instead, quitting the Republican Party when it became clear he would lose the 2010 GOP primary to Marco Rubio, the former State House chairman. Crist ran as an independent this fall, which ended up dividing part of the Democratic vote in Rubio’s easy victory.

Four years later, Crist, as a Democrat, ran for his old post against the government of the day. Rick Scott, and came within a percentage point of beating him.

Some Democratic officials and consultants have said Crist’s story could work against him, with voters eager for someone new, like current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – the first Democrat to win a race in all. the state since 2012 – or Orlando area representative Val Demings, who earned a national reputation for his work in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Crist, nonetheless, said he thought the Florida Democrats should give him another try because, unlike other members of his party who are considering running, he knows the job and “won’t need to. on-the-job training. “

“Experience matters. Joe Biden has shown it across the country, ”he said. “We currently have an inexperienced executive in the governor’s office. I think they have had enough.

In a statement, Fried said: “It’s clear Ron DeSantis is to be a governor for one term – and it probably makes sense that the only statewide Democrat to win is a candidate, but today is not yet the day to announce my decision. ”


Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist introduces then-President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting February 10, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida.

Crist had been a state senator from St. Petersburg when he was able to make himself known by leading hearings on the government of the day. Lawton Chiles’ use of deceptive phone calls to the elderly, helping him win a close race against Jeb Bush in 1994.

Crist ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Senator Bob Graham in 1998, but went on to win statewide races for Education Commissioner in 2000 and Attorney General in 2002. In 2006, running for succeeding Bush after his second term, Crist moved away from the typical Republican tactic of emphasis. his conservative positions in the GOP primary, and instead, essentially began to run a general election campaign as a pro-consumer, pro-environment moderate from the start.

He easily won the Republican nomination, then comfortably won the general election in what was a wave of Democrats nationally.

A three minute announcement video It released on Tuesday was similar in tone to that of 2006. The announcement features his on-stage embrace of former President Barack Obama in 2009 – the ultimate betrayal for many GOP base voters who hated the first black president – and Crist’s vocal support for current President Joe Biden.

Helen Aguirre Ferre, of the Florida Republican Party, said Crist’s loyalty was bad for the state. “While Governor DeSantis put the elderly first, kept our children in school and businesses open, Charlie Crist advocated for lockdowns, restrictions on businesses and supported efforts by teachers’ unions to prevent our kids go to class, ”she said. “He even betrayed those who fled communism by kissing officials of the Castro regime on a secret trip to Cuba.

Crist said DeSantis revealed how seriously he took him as a potential opponent when he scheduled a press conference at one of Crist’s favorite restaurants on Monday when he could have held it in Tallahassee or elsewhere in the state.

“It was a message of concern,” Crist said. “And frankly, he should be worried.

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