May 3, 2021 - News

Rep. Charlie Crist likely to launch campaign for Florida governor

Charlie Crist at a podium

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) announces that he will run for governor as a Democrat on Nov. 4, 2013 at Albert Whitted Park. Photo: Edward Linsmier/Getty Images

Charlie Crist is making a "major announcement" Tuesday morning in St. Pete, and odds are strong that he'll tell us he plans to be the first Democrat to officially step up to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022.

Driving the news: Crist formed a political committee named "Friends of Charlie Crist," which would allow him to start raising money for a 2022 state-level election, Florida Politics reports.

  • And sources told publisher Peter Schorsch the Republican governor-turned-Democratic congressman has been making phone calls to local elected officials, donors, and activists to see how they felt about it. The response was "overwhelmingly positive."

Why it matters: Crist, 64, would be the first Democrat to announce a run, but the field could get crowded.

  • Insiders suspect popular U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, will also run, and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida's only statewide-elected Democrat, is considering it, too, among others.
  • Don't forget former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, whom Crist unseated in 2016. Jolly defected from the GOP and has been mulling a run for governor as an independent.

What they're saying: Crist's strengths at this stage are his fundraising skills, his appeal to moderates and the name recognition that comes from serving as education commissioner, attorney general and governor of the Sunshine State.

Yes, but: Crist hasn't won a statewide election in 15 years, and last time he did it was as a Republican, the Tampa Bay Times points out.

  • He lost a three-way race for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010. Four years later, he was the Democratic Party's nominee for governor but lost to then-Gov. Rick Scott.

The big picture: The move could put his congressional seat at risk for Democrats, who are fighting historical head winds that tend to punish the president's party in midterm elections, per the Washington Post.

  • And the Republican state legislature will draw new district maps next year that could make his Pinellas County district more Republican.

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