Aug 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Charlie Crist to face Ron DeSantis in Florida's gubernatorial election

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) speaks during a campaign event at the Pembroke Pines Jewish Center on August 17, 2022

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist speaks during a campaign event at the Pembroke Pines Jewish Center on Aug. 17. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist won Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, the AP reports. Crist edged out Nikki Fried, the state's agriculture commissioner, in a fight over who will take on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in November's general election.

Why it matters: Crist previously served as Florida's Republican governor in 2006 and has said he has the best chance of beating DeSantis in November due to his experience in both parties. He became a Democrat in 2012.

  • November's election will likely be an uphill battle for Democrats, which have been largely unsuccessful in Florida elections over the last several years, the Tampa Bay Times notes.

Driving the news: Crist, 66, vowed on the campaign trail to be a "governor for all Floridians," saying that DeSantis is responsible for political polarization in the Sunshine State, per the Washington Post.

  • Crist earned the support from a number of high-profile Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and led in fundraising over Fried.

The big picture: Crist was elected Florida governor in 2006 after serving as the state's attorney general.

  • After his first term as governor, he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate, then as an independent. He became a Democrat in 2012 and campaigned for former President Obama's re-election, per the Post.
  • Crist ran for governor in 2014 as a Democrat but lost to Sen. Rick Scott (R) in the primary. Crist won a U.S. House seat in 2016.

State of play: Fried, 44, sought to distinguish herself throughout the primary by criticizing Crist over his previous support for conservative policies.

  • She slammed Crist's prior record on abortion access and criticized him for appointing conservatives to the state Supreme Court as a Republican governor, per the Washington Post.

What they're saying: "This is the most consequential race in the history of our state," Crist said in a speech after the race was called. "And when we win in November, we will send shockwaves across this country."

  • After Fried conceded, she told her supporters, "We are going to make Ron DeSantis a one-term governor, and a zero-term president of the United States. We Democrats have to come together like never before."

Between the lines: Crist said Tuesday night that if elected governor again, he'll sign an executive order protecting abortion rights on his first day in office, Axios Tampa Bay's Selene San Felice and Ben Montgomery report.

  • He also promised to reinstate Andrew Warren, Hillsborough County's elected state attorney who DeSantis suspended earlier this month, and make Election Day a statewide holiday.

What to watch: DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, seeks to cast himself as a leader of the conservative movement and could use a clear victory in November to propel a potential national campaign in 2024.

Go deeper... DeSantis backers plot early 2024 boost

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add remarks from Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried.

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