Democrat Charlie Crist will face Ron DeSantis in race for Florida governor

Charlie Crist speaks to a crowd in St. Petersburg, Fla. after winning the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida – Image Courtesy: Daylina Miller/WUSF

The votes are in! According to a race call by the Associated Press, longtime politician and Democrat Charlie Crist has won the primary for Florida’s governor and will face Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in November. 

Crist served as the state of Florida’s Republican governor over a decade ago and now identifies as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The primary for governor has shined a light on a split within the Democratic Party in Florida. Crist’s rival, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, hammered him over his past as governor and for switching his opinion on issues like criminal justice and abortion.

As Crist claimed victory on Tuesday night, he praised Fried for a spirited campaign, but it was clear his sights were set on beating DeSantis. “The stakes could not be any higher for this election. Our fundamental freedoms are literally on the ballot, my friends. A woman’s right to choose–on the ballot. Democracy–on the ballot. Your rights as minorities are on this ballot.”

He described DeSantis as a “dangerous bully” and made sure to solidify his stance as a candidate who supports the right to abortion.

“On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order protecting a women’s right to choose.”

By positioning himself as the candidate most likely to defeat DeSantis in November, Crist outraised Fried and has run as a moderate. He has made an effort to win over independent voters and disenchanted Republicans, and has received support from influential Democratic-leaning organizations like the state’s teachers union.

Crist has a mixed record when it comes to winning elections. In 2010, he left the Republican party to run as an independent against Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate. He made a second attempt at running for governor as a Democrat in 2014 but lost by nearly a percentage point to the current U.S. senator, Republican Rick Scott.

The powerful governor is rumored to be considering running for president in 2024. He has raised his national profile and has over $100 million in the bank. DeSantis has gained major publicity for his battles over education, including how educators speak to students about history, race, and LGBTQ people. He has pushed new laws that restrict how conversations surrounding those subjects take place in public schools and even businesses.

If he wins in November, Crist will have to persuade some of the nearly 4 million unaffiliated Florida voters. Registered Democrats are currently outnumbered by registered Democrats in the state, but statewide races are usually close. DeSantis, himself, won by only about a percentage point back in 2018.

Stories that matter are our priority. At Florida Insider, we make sure that the information we provide our readers is accurate, easy-to-read, and informative. Whether you are interested in business, education, government, history, sports, real estate, nature or travel: we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.