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Kathy Castor endorses Charlie Crist in Democratic primary for Florida governor

The early show of support comes a week before Nikki Fried’s planned announcement.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, left, listens to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, right, announce a new bill aimed at protecting the U.S. Postal Service during a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 outside the USPS branch in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. On Monday, Castor endorsed Crist for governor.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, left, listens to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, right, announce a new bill aimed at protecting the U.S. Postal Service during a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 outside the USPS branch in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. On Monday, Castor endorsed Crist for governor. [ JAMES BORCHUCK | Times ]
Published May 24
Updated May 24

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor isn’t waiting to see which Democrats might run for governor before deciding who to get behind. The Tampa lawmaker is endorsing her congressional colleague from across the bay, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

“I’ve worked with Charlie Crist for years, but you only have to spend a couple minutes with him to know he’s always on the people’s side,” Castor said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “Charlie will restore civility, bring decency to our politics and build a Florida for all.”

Castor’s announcement is one of the first major endorsements in a race that is still more than a year from being decided. Her backing further solidifies Crist’s strong connections in the Tampa Bay region where he has lived most of his life.

“Kathy is champion for Florida’s environment and families in Congress, and together we’ll fight to bring the people’s voice to Tallahassee,” Crist said. “That’s why I’m running for governor — to bring people together to build a Florida for all, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

Castor was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, the same year Crist won his race for governor as a Republican. Despite coming from different parties at the time, Castor said she and Crist worked closely on responding to the BP oil disaster and convincing the federal government to invest in local infrastructure projects.

The two have worked closely together in Congress since Crist was elected to represent Pinellas County in 2016 as a Democrat.

“He’s been there for our state before during crises and challenges, and he’s more than prepared to help lead us in the years ahead,” Castor said.

Crist became the first Democrat to officially announce a bid for the party’s nomination for governor when he launched his campaign earlier this month from St. Petersburg. So far, no other Democrats have joined him, though Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has teased a June 1 announcement.

Castor’s endorsement follows the news that Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando is likely to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Marco Rubio. Demings had considered a campaign for governor, too. Had she chosen that path, it may have forced Castor to chose between two close colleagues. Last year, Castor had publicly urged then-candidate Joe Biden to pick Demings as his running mate.

Castor said it is her intent “to work to elect Charlie Crist for governor and I call on everyone who cares about Florida to do the same.”