A familiar face returns as former governor and current Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, announced his campaign to return to the governor’s mansion in 2022 with the slogan “A Florida for All.”
Echoing the sentiments of civility, decency and change, Crist wore yellow bracelets during his campaign announcement, which held his life motto — the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have done unto you.
I'm running for governor to build a Florida for All – to stop division and hate, bring our state together, and finally open up opportunities for every Floridian. pic.twitter.com/l1OksxMP1y— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) May 4, 2021
Crist launched his campaign in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, where he carried the message of unity, compassion and fairness as the central tenets of his vision.
“I’m running so you will be in charge again,” Crist explained, “so you can have a governor who works for the people with a steady hand and an open heart… [because] listening to the people should not be a radical notion.”
A proud grandson of immigrants and a champion of the middle class, Crist, who describes himself as an eternal optimist, attended Florida State University and earned his law degree from Cumberland School of Law. It’s this attitude that Crist has brought with him throughout his three decades in public service as a state senator, commissioner of education, attorney general, and as the 44th governor of Florida.
During his term as governor, then-Republican Crist faced immense challenges such as the 2008 recession and the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As his term drew to a close, Crist restored the voting rights for 150,000 Floridians and purchased thousands of acres of land in the Florida Everglades for conservation efforts.
Crist also vetoed several major bills including HB 1143, which would have required ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and SB 6, which would have tied teacher’s pay to student performance levels.
In 2012, Crist joined the Democratic Party and would go on to flip the 13th District of Florida seat in 2016. He became the first blue representative of the area since 1955 and won three reelections.
The shifted focus back to the governor’s seat has left many Floridians puzzled, but Crist has a mission. He claims that DeSantis and the Republican Party have lost touch with what Floridians need, which began a decade ago when Crist disaffiliated from the party.
Expressing his discontent with several pieces of recent legislation, Crist’s campaign announcement specially mentioned the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which bars transgender girls from particpating in athletics consistent with their gender identity.
Crist labeled the bill as heartbreaking, shameful and an act of outright discrimination against transgender individuals.
Regardless of where Floridians live or their political affiliation, Crist wants Floridians to know they deserve better.
Yesterday, Republican legislators in Tallahassee passed cruel legislation that picks on young transgender people for political gain. @GovRonDeSantis should veto it immediately. /1— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) April 29, 2021
Crist is running on a progressive platform grounded on a few key issues such as legalizing marijauana, increasing gun control, acting on climate change and protecting the civil rights of every person in the state.
Crist has several advantages that will help him in the upcoming primaries — most importantly the edge of already having served as governor and having name recognition. Sporting a Biden-like approach, Crist may be able to appeal to the state’s moderate voters. Appealing to the widest range of voters can be a powerful tool in winning an election but will prove tricky in a state with diverse opinions.
Undoubtedly, Crist will face a major setback as his inconsistent views will be put under the magnifying glass.
Although now an open supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, Crist voted in favor of banning same-sex marriage back in 2008. As a state senator, Crist sponsored the STOP (Stop Turning Out Prisoners) Law that requires Florida inmates to serve a mandatory minimum of 85% of their sentences. Although this law has had far-reaching impacts on the state’s criminal justice system, Crist has made no mention of this law or any other criminal justice topic other than legalizing marijuana.
Crist will also have to win over key voters, such as the youth and Hispanic communities. As one of the most popular governors in the country, DeSantis has high approval ratings with both demographics that have historically impacted the outcome of elections in the state.
In order to win the Democratic nomination, Crist will first have to set his sights within his own party.
With Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried in the race, Florida Democrats are faced with the important question — who is better suited to beat the popular incumbent? This is a disadvantage for Crist who lost to Rick Scott at a 1% margin back in 2014. He also lost the Republican nomination to Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate race.
Still, recent polls show that both candidates will struggle to beat DeSantis in 2022.
Under the brutal Florida sun, wearing his Golden Rule bracelets, Crist conveyed his determination and grit for the coming election cycle: “This won’t be an easy fight, but nothing worth fighting for in life is easy.”
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Featured image: Charlie Crist on 2014 gubernatorial campaign trail (Unmodified Photo by Andres LaBrada used under a Creative Commons License. https://bit.ly/3zgW8Qk).