U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a one-time Florida governor who for months has publicly mulled another run for the office, is expected to announce his future plans Tuesday.
Crist on Saturday sent out an invitation to supporters for the “special event” next week in St. Petersburg, signaling he has finalized a decision that has been in the works since the late 2020. If he moves forward, Crist would be the first Democrat to officially enter a race for the nomination to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022.
He is unlikely to be the only one.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s only statewide elected Democrat, is considering a run for the office too. As is Crist’s colleague in Congress, Rep. Val Demings of Orlando. Other potential candidates include state Sens. Annette Taddeo and Randolph Bracy and state Rep. Anna Eskamani.
To emerge out of a crowded primary, Crist will have to convince Democratic voters that as a well-known face who preaches moderate politics and compromise, he gives the party the best chance to win over middle-of-the-road voters needed to be victorious against DeSantis. Unlike his would-be opponents, Crist has statewide name recognition and has a track record of raising the gobs of money it takes to run in this massive, expensive state.
But it has been 15 years since Crist won a statewide election, and he did it as a Republican. He lost a three-way race for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010. Four years later, he was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor but failed to defeat then-Gov. Rick Scott.
At 64 years old, Crist would also be an older, white male running to represent a party that is getting younger and more diverse. In the last election, Democratic primary voters made Andrew Gillum the first African American nominee for governor. Many of the potential contenders weighing bids for governor in 2022 are women, people of color or both.
Crist’s advisers believe that he is uniquely situated to stop the Democratic bleeding with rural voters, who have flocked to the Republican Party in droves, turning all but the state’s urban centers red. It’s an argument that may help in a general election, but won’t aid Crist in a primary that is predominantly won or lost in the state’s big cities.
A St. Petersburg native, Crist has represented Pinellas County in Congress since 2016 after defeating Republican incumbent David Jolly in one of the country’s most expensive races. He was re-elected to a third term in November, defeating Republican Anna Paulina Luna with 53 percent of the vote.