Take two in Florida for Crist, now a Democrat
CNN — Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is running for the office he once held. But this time he's running as a Democrat.
In formally announcing his bid Monday at a rally in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Crist highlighted a Democratic style platform that included increased spending for education and infrastructure, and an increase in investment in renewable energy programs.
But the Republican-turned-Democrat also appeared to tout his GOP roots, saying that "I do believe in cutting taxes" and pledging a new cabinet level position to promote trade.
Crist spent a good part of his speech slamming first term Republican Gov. Rick Scott, saying "overnight he went from taking over Tallahassee to becoming the example of what's wrong with the place."
"The more I watched Rick Scott govern, the partisanship, the deals, always putting the special interests ahead of your interests. And the more I heard from you the people, I knew it was time to take Florida in a better direction. So today, I announce that I am running for governor of Florida," Crist said.
Crist, then a Republican, was elected governor of Florida in 2006, succeeding two term GOP Gov. Jeb Bush. In March of 2009, Crist announced he would run for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2010 rather than for a second term as governor.
While he started out as the overwhelming frontrunner to win the GOP Senate nomination, his hugging of President Barack Obama at a February 2009 event in Florida to promote federal stimulus spending came back to hurt him with conservatives.
After falling way behind former state lawmaker and one-time longshot candidate Marco Rubio in the race for the Republican nomination, Crist left the GOP in April 2010 and continued his Senate bid as an independent candidate. He ended up losing a three-way general election battle to Rubio, who's become a star among conservatives.
Last year Crist endorsed Obama's re-election campaign, and at the end of the year he formally became a Democrat.
Crist didn't share much about his party affiliation on Monday, other than to say "so yes, yeah, I'm running as a Democrat," adding that I am proud to do it."
He did say that his party affiliation would be an issue for the "far-right wing."
The Republican Governors Association was quick to criticize Crist's entry into the race.
"Charlie Crist was a failure as Governor and is a pure political opportunist who is out for himself," said RGA Chairman and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. "When the going got tough, Charlie dropped his rifle, abandoned his post, and ran away from the people of Florida."
While Scott has yet to announce his re-election bid, "Let's Get to Work," his political action committee announced it was going up with an ad Monday that highlights past quotes from leading Democratic politicians, including former Vice President Al Gore, that are critical of Crist. A source with knowledge of the spot said it was a "substantial" statewide ad buy.
Scott, a former health care executive, spent more than $75 million of his own money to narrowly capture the governor's office in 2010, in a close contest with Democrat Alex Sink, the state's former chief financial officer.
The 57-year old Crist isn't the only Democrat running for the party's nomination. Former state Sen. Nan Rich, 71, of Broward County, is also making a bid.