Ex-Republican Gov. Crist running for Congress as a Democrat

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 1:14 PM
Ex-Republican Gov. Crist running for Congress as a Democrat

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will once again try to revive his political career as a Democrat, with an announcement Tuesday that he will run for Congress after losing his last two statewide elections.

"We have a problem in Washington, there's no question about it. Washington does not listen to the people. Unfortunately Washington bickers with itself," Crist told about 40 supporters who gathered in Crist's hometown of St. Petersburg on Tuesday morning.

Crist was once considered a rising star in the Republican Party. He served as Florida governor from 2007 until 2011 and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick in 2008. Many believed he had an eye on eventually running for president.

But his career came to a halt when he decided to run for U.S. Senate instead of a second term as governor. He began the campaign as the favorite. But Marco Rubio used images of Crist hugging President Barack Obama, and Crist's Republican support dwindled. He dropped out of the primary and ran as an independent, but he lost to Rubio, who's now running for president.

Crist mentioned that experience during his announcement.

"I listened to the people when I stood with President Obama to help our economy get back on track. I wasn't popular with my former party, but just because I listened, it was the right thing to do," Crist said.

Crist eventually registered as a Democrat and last year ran against Gov. Rick Scott, losing a close race after being badly outspent.

Crist hopes new congressional districts ordered by the Florida Supreme Court will give him a good chance to win. The map awaiting the court's approval puts all of Pinellas County in the same district, making it more enticing for Crist, who grew up there.

The seat is now held by Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is running for Rubio's seat in part because it was clear the new district would favor Democrats.

Jolly watched the announcement from afar. Afterward, he called Crist "a huckster."

"I have served with a lot of bad members of Congress. Charlie would be the worst," Jolly said.

Crist will have opposition in the Democratic primary from Eric Lynn, a former Obama administration official who said Tuesday in a statement that "voters need a fresh face, someone with new smart policy ideas who is eager to make a change and fight for them in Washington."

Republicans portray Crist as a political opportunist who switched positions on nearly every major issue. They'll also point out that running for Congress is another step down the political ladder compared with his last two runs. Crist said it's more about service.

"It's like a calling," he said. "Public service is in my heart. I can't help it. I guess that's fairly obvious."

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Farrington reported from Tallahassee, Florida.