Florida’s Crist becomes first prominent Democrat to challenge DeSantis


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TALLAHASSEE — Rep. Charlie Crist, the previous Florida governor who wound up leaving the Republican Social gathering amid the tea get together backlash geared toward Barack Obama, turned the first prominent Democrat within the state to announce a bid to knock off incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis.

However Crist’s Tuesday announcement — replete with a gospel choir and flags fluttering within the wind — almost bought overshadowed by rival Democrats additionally planning their very own challenges.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who held a press convention to name on DeSantis to veto an extended line of payments, all however assured Tuesday that she is operating for governor. And Rep. Val Demings put out a biographical video on her social media account that appeared tailored for an anticipated bid.

Crist, nonetheless, didn’t point out his fellow Democrats throughout his kick-off speech in St. Petersburg. As an alternative he took intention at DeSantis and Republicans as out of contact and unfeeling in serving to Floridians throughout the greater than year-long pandemic. He gave his speech forward of five-day statewide tour he’s launching to publicize his newest run.

“It is a governor who doesn’t hear, who doesn’t care, and doesn’t take into consideration you — until in fact you’ll be able to write a marketing campaign verify,” Crist mentioned. “Actually, he sees our state’s fantastic range as a risk, not a energy all of us have a good time. He’s failed to lead throughout the biggest well being and financial disaster of our lifetime.”

He additionally mentioned that DeSantis — a possible 2024 presidential contender — was extra serious about his “private political fortunes” and linked him to former President Donald Trump as somebody “who all the time takes credit score however by no means takes duty.”

DeSantis on Tuesday brushed apart Crist’s challenge by joking “which get together is he going to run beneath?” After noting he sides with Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DeSantis recommended that Crist needs to be operating as a Inexperienced Social gathering candidate as a substitute of as a Democrat.

DeSantis, who has always touted his resistance to lockdowns and masks mandates throughout the pandemic, additionally mentioned he welcomed debating his dealing with of the Covid pandemic with Crist and different Democrats.

“Should you take a look at our state and the way we’re doing, I don’t suppose individuals may argue with the outcome,” DeSantis mentioned. “Please run on lockdowns, please run in opposition to us placing seniors first.”

This will likely be Crist’s third bid for governor. After successful his first run in 2006 because the GOP candidate, he selected to run for U.S. Senate in 2010 as an impartial solely to lose to Marco Rubio. He ran for governor once more in 2014 solely to narrowly lose to incumbent Rick Scott in 2014.

Even when he was governor, Crist took reasonable stances and pushed to restore voting rights for former felons. He eagerly welcomed stimulus assist from the federal authorities throughout the Nice Recession however he blamed animus towards Obama as a part of his resolution to depart the Republican Social gathering. His opening video consists of footage of Obama praising Crist in addition to a clip of Crist hugging Obama throughout a 2009 rally that created a firestorm of controversy for him on the time.

Crist has all the time carried the persona of a “glad warrior” and has a pure ease with each campaigning and elevating cash. When requested earlier this yr about how he anticipated to cope in a crowded Democratic main, Crist in contrast himself to President Joe Biden.

Nonetheless Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994. And Crist’s pathway to the Democratic nomination is way from assured.

Fried, who has been constructing a marketing campaign group upfront of 2022, mentioned it was “Charlie’s day,” however made it clear that her bid is coming quickly.

“As the one statewide elected Democrat, it makes absolute sense for me to run for governor. However as we speak just isn’t the day to make that announcement,” Fried informed reporters.

Demings, who rose to nationwide prominence throughout the first Trump impeachment and was thought of as a operating mate to Biden, can also be anticipated to enter the race. She launched a video Tuesday morning that highlighted her rise as a police chief after which her marketing campaign for Congress. In it, Demings mentioned “success just isn’t solely about being ready, it’s about alternative.”

The Democratic nominee can have a tricky battle in opposition to DeSantis, who has change into a conservative movie star for his disdain of the media, his pushing again in opposition to Covid-19 restrictions and a legislative agenda that took intention at Huge Tech in addition to protesters within the wake of the summer season’s anti-police brutality demonstrations. DeSantis has additionally raised tens of millions already for his re-election, together with a $2.8 million contribution previously week from the Republican Governor’s Affiliation.

Crist was first elected to Congress in 2016 and his resolution to run for governor will seemingly put his congressional district in play as a potential pickup for Republicans subsequent yr. Anna Paulina Luna, who gained the GOP main with the backing of Rep. Matt Gaetz and different conservative stalwarts, has already introduced she goes to run for the seat once more.

Matt Dixon contributed to this report.

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