Charlie Crist: Hoping for a political repeat

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 12:26:25-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Democratic candidate for Florida governor Charlie Crist was in West Palm Beach on Thursday said he does not mind the odds.

"You know, life is full of risk. That's OK," Crist told WPTV NewsChannel 5 anchor Michael Williams.

WPTV sat down with Crist in West Palm Beach after he met with community activists to talk about the controversial election reform bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"I think Florida deserves better. I think we need a governor who will respect our right to vote and not sign legislation that suppresses the vote," Crist said.

Crist, once an avowed Reagan Republican, now wants to be the Democratic alternative to DeSantis in 2022. He will first have to win a Democratic primary challenge against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and others could still join that field. Crist only said of the primary that he looks forward to it.

Meanwhile, he hammers DeSantis on environmental stewardship, though the governor won early bipartisan praise on water policy issues. COVID-19, from mask use to lockdowns, will be part of every debate no matter the winner of the Democratic primary next year. So too, will issues like education spending, including GOP support for charter schools.

Williams asked Crist why Democrats have a problem with school choice.

"Why don't we give them a choice by properly funding the public education school system that is an American tradition already," Crist said.

Perhaps the biggest issue Crist confronts is his own political resume, that of a Republican, turned Independent, turned Democrat. He has already lost one gubernatorial bid in 2014 to incumbent Rick Scott. His critics call Crist a political opportunist.

Crist counters that he saw the GOP changing years ago in the Tea Party heyday and didn't like the direction.

"I saw what, now I think, most Americans see, a hard-right Republican Party that has come under the allure or whatever you want to call it, of Donald Trump," Crist said. " I don't mean to paint too broad a swath here. There are good Republicans in the state and country, and I understand that, but by and general I have never been more comfortable than being a Florida Democrat."