Lovefest for Charlie Crist at Pasco Democrats' luncheon
Charlie Crist entered the Pasco County banquet hall of Democrats to a standing ovation and open arms, the earliest sign Saturday’s luncheon featuring the once Republican governor would be a lovefest.
Crist sounded like he wants to be the Florida Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee but stopped short of saying he’s in the race. He praised President Barack Obama’s “leadership and grace” and dissed Republican Gov. Rick Scott on immigration and voting, without saying his name.
The room turned especially loud when Crist finished his 20-minute speech about becoming a Democrat by asking Dade City teacher Beverly Ledbetter, likely to run for a GOP-held state House seat, to stand up.
“She and I are considering running next year,” Crist said. “And your encouragement truly does mean more than you know.”
Not much for eating, Crist stood in front of tables of creamy shrimp pasta and rolls for an hour, shaking hands and posing for pictures with most everyone down to the caterers.
The 200-person crowd at the Jasmine Lakes Civic Center was the largest turnout in years for the Democratic Executive Committee of Pasco County, organizers said.
“He’s a person of the people, and that’s the kind of governor we want,” said committee chairman Lynn Lindeman.
At Crist’s side was his wife, Carole, who downplayed her role in Crist’s decision but said she’s touched by “the warmth and a lot of affection” at recent Democratic meet-and-greets.
“Look at how happy he is!” she said as he worked the room.
Drawing a distinction with Scott, Crist said he supports the immigration bill being considered by Congress because he is the grandson of a Greek immigrant.
“I wish that the guy who’s in the Governor’s Mansion now didn’t used to talk about an Arizona-type law,” he said. “That’s not welcoming, that’s not embracing and that’s not what a Floridian would do.”
Before Crist spoke, state Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and Florida Democratic Party vice chairman Alan Clendenin encouraged the rank-and-file members to mobilize and elect more Democrats to the Legislature.
“We need common sense, not nonsense,” Crist said a couple times. A reporter said that sounded like a campaign slogan. “It could be!” he said.