LAKE BUENA VISTA — Charlie Crist will make it official Nov. 4 in St. Petersburg, his hometown.
The former Republican governor widely expected to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday he will declare his intentions that Monday morning in downtown Straub Park. That's near where he announced in 2010 that he was leaving the GOP to run for U.S. Senate as an independent.
Working an enthusiastic crowd of Democratic activists gathered Friday at Disney World for their state party convention, he certainly looked like a candidate. But Crist insisted he is not completely decided.
"I somewhat know what I'm going to do, but until you say it publicly it's not done," Crist said.
He did have something of a soft opening of the campaign Friday, launching a new website, c harliecrist.com, and releasing a video of himself sounding very much like a candidate already settled on a message to take on Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
"When you allowed me to be a governor, I worked to be the people's governor every day. You the people were in charge," Crist says, with a beach in the background. "I'm an optimist, but let's face it, the past few years have been tough: government on the fringes, donors and politics above you, the people. You've seen the attacks — against full-time working people and their health care, against women and their doctors, against teachers, public schools and college affordability. And even against the simple act of casting your vote. It's not working. Only you the people can end this nonsense and get us back to common sense. That's the way forward. Tell me how I can help. Share your comments with me here. I'll read every last one. I work for you, the people. Always have and always will."
The Republican Party of Florida wasted no time releasing its own video featuring a clip of Crist acknowledging that the Florida economy has improved in recent years.
"Charlie Crist isn't entitled to his own facts, and every time he attempts to rewrite his failed history or contradicts himself, we will respond to set the record straight,'' the Florida GOP said.
Gov. Scott may not be around to respond directly to Crist's long-expected announcement as he is scheduled to be in Japan the first week of November.
Other Republicans, though, already are scoffing at the historic feat Crist appears poised to pursue: running for statewide office as a Republican, then as an independent, and finally as a Democrat.
"I don't know of anyone who in over a decade has run as a Republican, an independent and a Democrat. He's running out of parties," said Sen. Marco Rubio, who defeated Crist for U.S. Senate in 2010.
"In 4 years, Charlie Crist has run for office under 3 different labels, pledging permanent allegiance each time," Stu Stevens, Crist's former Republican strategist, scoffed on Twitter.
More than 1,000 Democratic activists are at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club this weekend. The only candidate for governor who will address the crowd is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Broward County, as she is the only major candidate announced. But Crist on Friday still looked like the headliner, as he slowly made his way through the convention hallway, stopping every couple steps to chat with, hug and take photos with party faithful.
"We've got the worst governor in the country. You've got to run. You've got to run,'' Port Charlotte retiree Art Garafolo urged Crist, who was squired by political consultant Steve Schale, and two top Democratic fundraisers for President Barack Obama, former state Democratic chairman Bob Poe of Orlando, and South Florida lawyer Andrew Weinstein.
Some Democrats expected Crist to announce his candidacy at the convention, but he has at least a couple of reasons to wait.
For one thing, Crist has always announced his campaigns in St. Petersburg. "It's my hometown," he explained.
For another, a new law raises the cap on individual campaign contributions from $500 to $3,000 starting Nov. 1.
Times staff writers Michael Van Sickler and Alex Leary contributed to this report. Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected]