U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for governor, is engaged to be married to Chelsea Grimes, a mother of six children and a medical sonographer from Minneapolis, whom he calls “a beautiful person, internally and externally,” and “the sweetest, nicest person I’ve ever met besides my own mother.”
There has been no public announcement of the engagement, and Crist said in an interview there are no formal wedding plans, though he hopes it will be “sooner rather than later,” possibly before the November election.
“We already feel like we’re married,” he said.
The event comes as Crist, now in his third term in Congress, nears a Democratic primary against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, then possibly a tough general election battle against Gov. Ron DeSantis.
It will be the third marriage for both Grimes, 43, and Crist, 66. It’s also the second time that Crist’s marriage plans have attracted attention because they occurred while he was under consideration for high political office.
Grimes said she envisions “an intimate, family wedding” in the backyard of Crist’s parents’ home in St. Petersburg.
“I can’t believe we’re not already married,” she said. “I’m over the moon excited to be a Floridian. Florida’s about to get bigger because I’ve got some little ones.”
Her next steps, she said, will be get a Florida driver’s license “and register to vote, of course.”
Asked how she feels about a potentially grueling campaign she’s about to be immersed in, she said, “I welcome it and embrace it. I want to do what I can for the people of Florida.”
Crist said the two met in 2017 in Washington, just after he had been elected to Congress. Grimes, who has a son with juvenile-onset diabetes, was there advocating for legislation to lower the cost of insulin.
But their romance didn’t begin for the next three years, he said, because she was still married.
Crist was also married, but filed for divorce from his second wife, Carole Rome, in February 2017, around the time he met Grimes.
“Every few months she’d shoot me a text, like ‘How are you doing,’” he said. “I didn’t feel I could pursue something with a married woman — but I was already in love with her.”
In February 2020, he said, Grimes told him she was filing for divorce and the two began seeing each other. The following spring he left his rented condo in downtown St. Petersburg and rented a house in Shore Acres, so there would be room for her children when she came to visit.
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On June 5, they met in Miami and Crist presented her with a diamond ring at the hotel where they were staying.
“I said I love you with all my heart, you mean the world to me, you’re the sweetest person I’ve ever met, will you marry me? And she said yes, and we both cried.”
Crist said Grimes comes from a middle-class family. Her father is a Vietnam combat veteran in Army artillery, whom Crist called “a hero,” who later worked on the Alaska pipeline and then as a car salesman; her mother worked for the state motor vehicle department.
She has one daughter in college in North Dakota and the rest from high school age down to 10, he said; three of her children come from each of her previous marriages.
Crist was married in 1979 for less than a year, then remained a bachelor.
He became engaged to Rome, a wealthy and glamorous figure in the New York and Hamptons social circuit, in 2008.
At the time he was serving as governor and considered a contender for running mate to John McCain in that year’s presidential election.
Crist and Rome married in December 2008 and were divorced in 2017.