ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., said Tuesday that he's running for governor in 2022.
The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat made the announcement Tuesday morning in a video posted on his official Twitter page.
Florida should be a place where hard work is rewarded, justice is equal, and opportunity is right in front of you. That's a Florida for all — and that's why I'm running for Governor.— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) May 4, 2021
Join us: https://t.co/ayqK3371Ik pic.twitter.com/l1OksxMP1y
"Because Florida should be a place where hard work is rewarded, justice is equal and opportunity is right in front of you," Crist said in the video. "That is a Florida for all, and that's why I'm running for governor."
Crist, who was a Republican when he was elected governor in 2006, currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. He left the Republican Party and became an independent so that he could seek a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, losing to Republican Marco Rubio.
By announcing his candidacy, Crist becomes the first former Florida governor to seek re-election as a member of another political party.
A Democrat hasn't been elected governor since Lawton Chiles won re-election in 1994.
Prior to becoming governor, Crist served as Florida's attorney general under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Before that, he was Florida's education commissioner.
During a news conference in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Crist took aim at the policies of current Gov. Ron DeSantis.
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"Every step of the way this governor has been more focused on his personal political fortune than the struggle of regular Floridians, and that's just not right," Crist said. "Just like our former president, he always claims credit and never takes responsibility."
Crist also criticized the governor's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It begs the question, my friends, how many lives would have been saved if Gov. DeSantis had listened to the scientists and medical experts, if he had simply promoted a mask-wearing and social-distancing policy instead of a political agenda?" Crist told a crowd of supporters. "How many lives would have been saved if Gov. DeSantis had implemented a statewide plan to protect Floridians? How many small businesses would have been saved if Gov. DeSantis recognized the key to rebuilding our economy isn't politics? It's beating the virus and ensuring people's safety. The truth is, Gov. DeSantis has failed us."
When asked about Crist potentially challenging him in the 2022 election, DeSantis took a shot at Crist's political flip-flopping, asking reporters, "Which party is he gonna run under? Do we know for sure?"
Then DeSantis suggested that Democrats pushing an agenda of shutdowns and government restrictions would be met with resistance on Election Day.
"I implore them, for my political interest, run on closing schools. Run on locking people down. Run on closing businesses and ruining -- I would love to have that debate," DeSantis said. "Because I can tell you this: We have saved people's livelihoods, and you know what? When you're having kids in school, when you have people working, when you have people's businesses surviving, you're saving lives, too."
Crist and current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried have been considered the frontrunners to challenge DeSantis in 2022. Fried has hinted at running, though she has yet to make an official announcement.
"As the only statewide elected Democrat, it makes absolute sense for me to be running for governor, but today is not the day for me to make that announcement," Fried told reporters in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Convention chimed in, calling Crist's announcement an attempt "to stay relevant."
"It looks like Charlie Crist and his fan will have yet another chance to blow hot air around Florida in his perennial quest to stay relevant," RNC regional spokeswoman Savannah Viar said in a statement. "Floridians know that Crist is nothing but an attempted opportunist and will send him packing once and for all."