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Charlie Crist and David Jolly may be headed for rematch in 2022 governor’s race

Crist unseated Jolly in 2016 for the St. Pete congressional seat. But Jolly’s expected run next year as a third party candidate for governor is being seen as a gift for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Democrat Charlie Crist, left, unseated Republican incumbent David Jolly for St. Petersburg's congressional seat in 2016. SCOTT KEELER | Times (2016)
Democrat Charlie Crist, left, unseated Republican incumbent David Jolly for St. Petersburg's congressional seat in 2016. SCOTT KEELER | Times (2016)
Published Feb. 26
Updated Feb. 26

Could there be a Charlie Crist/David Jolly rematch in 2022?

Both Democrat Crist and Jolly, who’s leading a new third party called the Serve America Movement, appear to be serious about running for governor next year.

The two, both known as consummate “nice guys” personally, ran against each other in a not-so-nice 2016 race for the St. Petersburg congressional seat, in which Crist unseated Jolly.

Both are also former Republicans who left the party — Jolly in 2018 because of the GOP’s alliance with Donald Trump, and Crist in 2010, saying the party had swung too far right. He became an independent and then in 2012 a Democrat.

Crist says his “mind is open” to a run for governor because of what he says are the failures of the DeSantis administration. He’s one of a group of about five reportedly or openly eying the race.

Rep. Charlie Crist walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
Rep. Charlie Crist walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. [ SUSAN WALSH | AP ]

In an interview this week, Jolly said Crist actually is further along than that — he said mutual friends have told him Crist is actively seeking backers for the race.

Jolly himself is “building out an infrastructure” for a run either as a SAM candidate or a no-party candidate, but won’t decide until later this year, he said.

Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who has worked for DeSantis, said Jolly would be a spoiler for the Democratic candidate, virtually guaranteeing DeSantis’ re-election. Some Democrats agree with that assessment.

“Talk about Christmas coming early for (DeSantis),” Fabrizio tweeted recently. “What a gift a (Jolly) candidacy would be.”

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly.
Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly. [ Courtesy of David Jolly ]

Jolly scoffs at that.

“Democrats haven’t won the governor’s mansion in 28 years — it’s getting worse for them, not better,” he said. “I don’t believe they can win regardless whom they nominate, including Charlie Crist.”

He said Democrats would label him as too conservative in a campaign, and he could draw as many Republican as Democratic voters. And, he added, he could have either a Democratic or a Republican running mate.

Jolly said he didn’t want to become a Democrat because, “That’s not where my politics are nor my ideology.”

He said the SAM party “welcomes progressive, conservative and moderate ideas,” and that he believes in some typically Democratic and some typically Republican solutions on issues including reproductive rights and public education.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.