ST. PETERSBURG— Charlie Crist is back, saying Tuesday "somebody has to step up" for Democrats in the 13th Congressional District, dismissing criticism that he is perpetual candidate.
"Public service is in my heart," said Crist at his congressional campaign kickoff in front of Childs Park Recreation Center.
The announcement came in a south St. Petersburg neighborhood expected to be added to the district in a few weeks when the Florida Supreme Court issues a final ruling setting the boundaries of Pinellas County's redrawn congressional seat.
The new boundaries make the district, which is currently held by Republican David Jolly, tilt heavily Democratic. Crist already has a Democratic opponent, Eric Lynn, a former Obama administration official.
Lynn says he's not getting out just because the former governor is in.
In a statement Tuesday, Lynn said Pinellas County needs a "fresh face," and reminded voters that he, too, is a hometown candidate. Lynn returned to Pinellas County last year after working for six years in Washington, D.C.
"I'm looking forward to a spirited primary on important Democratic issues," Lynn said.
"We'll see what happens," Crist told reporters when asked about Lynn.
Crist spoke in front of a couple dozen supporters, including Pinellas County commissioners Janet Long and Ken Welch, St. Petersburg City Council members Karl Nurse and Wengay Newton, union officials and other supporters,
Not in attendance was St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was in Toronto at the Tampa Bay Export Alliance meetings along with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Kriseman hasn't endorsed anyone, but has shown support for Lynn in recent months.
Jolly crashed the campaign kick-off, standing several dozen feet away while Crist spoke. Afterward, Jolly let Crist have it.
"I care too much about this district, the institution of congress, and who represents us to lay down and let this huckster walk into office," Jolly said.
Jolly, however, is opting to run next year for the U.S. Senate rather than face re-election in a heavily Democratic district. Republicans have yet to field a candidate for the 2016 election, but former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican, told the Times Monday night that he is considering a run.
In Crist's brief remarks, he said he would fight to protect Pinellas County from climate change, push for greater protections of seniors from threats to Social Security and Medicare and promote Pinellas County by giving it "a megaphone in the nation's capital."
"Let's go win this thing," Crist said.
When asked about his losses to Rick Scott in the governor's race in 2014 and Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Crist was succinct: "You win some, you lose some."
After his announcement, Crist headed for events at the War Veteran's Memorial Park and then Pier 60 in Clearwater.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced Tuesday morning that he will run to represent south Pinellas County in Congress in 2016. Follow along live with our political team.