In a conference room in a teachers union building in downtown Tampa, Charlie Crist exuded a soft confidence as he entered the room. FloridaEarlier this month.
She may face a primary as the Democratic nominee in the next gubernatorial election, but Christine’s focus already seems set on the general in November — and the far-right Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who hopes she will step down.
“He’s the most arrogant governor I’ve ever seen in my life,” Grist told the assembled teachers, who nodded in agreement. “It’s shocking, it really is. Enough is enough,” he said.
As primary voters in the state cast their ballots today, polling forecast Crist, a Florida political stalwart, will win by a significant margin against his closest Democratic opponent, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
The 66-year-old has run the gamut of political office in the state, from Republican governor and attorney general to current Democratic congressman. Crist memorably joined the Democratic Party in 2012, citing the radical takeover of the Republican Party.
Now a political centrist and the first in Congress to endorse Joe Biden’s presidential bid in 2020, he is increasingly dismayed by the state of his former party.
“Today’s Republican leadership is gone. There is no leadership,” he said. “It’s moving from one culture war to another, attacking the LGBTQ community, attacking African American voters, attacking women and the right to choose.”
A day before Christ sat down with the Guardian, DeSantis was suspended Effectively fired A Democratic attorney for refusing to enforce Florida’s new abortion law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The move was described as a radical overreach of executive power and Christ, a quiet man who chooses his words carefully. was compared DeSantis for a Dictator.
“I don’t use strong words like that, unless they’re true. In this case, it’s true,” Crist said. “We have to realize what Ivan is doing. He wants to be president of the United States, and he’s using Florida as his base to do that.
“He was a barbarian, a dictator.”
DeSantis is widely believed to be in the running 2024 for the presidencyand raised funds $160m from 2019. Meanwhile, his tenure ushered in a wave of far-right legislation in the state — from laws Strictly controls Discussing gender and sexual identity in classrooms Prohibits teaching a of critical race theory Voter Suppression Act.
DeSantis’ tenure — and Donald Trump’s 2020 electoral victory in Florida, where he widened his margin from 2016 — point to a surge to the right in Florida, long considered America’s most important swing state.
No Democratic presidential candidate has won in Florida since 2012, leading many observers to argue that the state is losing its purple status — which signifies a swing state, able to switch from Republican to Democrat, and vice versa.
Crist, predictably, argues the opposite, pointing to the election that saw DeSantis. Take the Governor’s House in 2018 by a margin of 0.4 razors.
But regardless of the state’s current political standing, whoever gets the nod to face DeSantis in November faces a tough election cycle. Although Christine’s status as a veteran Florida political operative seemed likely to win him the party’s nomination, it was used as a tool of attack by Fried.
In particular, Fried characterizes his writing on abortion random, pointing to his appointment of three state Supreme Court justices to rule on Florida’s new law. Crist appointed the state’s chief justice, Charles Kennedy, formerly an anti-abortion politician, and admits it’s a decision he’ll regret if the law is upheld.
When asked why a candidate who has already occupied the governor’s mansion once before, who has been such a familiar face for so long, should have a chance to win against a rising star of the Republican Party, Crist returns to values.
“I think we need relief and a better future. I’m giving my state the dignity my parents raised me to,” he said. “I know most Floridians are good, decent people.”
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