Florida governor race could heat up with Rep. Crist announcement in St. Pete

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The center of Florida politics for the second day in a row is set to be in St. Petersburg on Tuesday morning when Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13) makes a “major announcement.”

Political pundits, like USF Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Political Science Dr. Susan MacManus, widely expect the congressman to enter the 2022 race for Florida governor.

“He’s made too much of a leaking what he plans to do,” Dr. MacManus told 8 On Your Side.

MacManus said the moderate wing of the state’s Democratic Party wants him to challenge Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Another reason to run for his old job, she said, is because Florida’s 13th Congressional District he represents now may look more red after redistricting by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Crist was a Republican when he served as governor from 2007 to 2011 and he ran as an independent when he lost the U.S. Senate race to Marco Rubio in 2010.

The Democratic congressman will need to quickly reintroduce himself to Floridians if he hopes to win his party’s nomination, MacManus said.

“He hasn’t won a statewide race in over 15 years,” she said. “Think of how many people have moved into Florida that don’t know him unless they’re from (the) Tampa Bay area.”

Twenty-four hours before the major announcement in his hometown, Gov. DeSantis visited a St. Pete restaurant that Rep. Crist is known to frequent, The Big Catch at Salt Creek.

“I’m gonna suspend under my executive power the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID,” the governor said.

Gov. DeSantis signed two executive orders effectively eliminating any remaining local government COVID-19-related restrictions. He also signed into law the bill that bans so-called vaccine passports in Florida.

Rep. Crist, who has been critical of DeSantis throughout the coronavirus pandemic, quickly responded in a statement calling his actions Monday “government overreach at its worst.”  

“Governor DeSantis failed to lead during the pandemic, leaving local officials as the last line of defense against the pandemic, forcing them to make the hard decisions to save lives,” Crist said. “This is a continuation of that immoral lack of leadership and another reason why he doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.”

MacManus said it is “way too early to be talking about” Crist versus DeSantis in the November 2022 election. She explained why he may face a tough time in a democratic primary against two other possible candidates, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congresswoman Val Demings from Orlando.

“A predominance of Florida registered Democrats are women and young and diverse,” she said, “so those are candidates qualities that a lot of Democrats might be looking for as well. He’s likely to experience a competitive race in his own party.”

Crist would become the first Democrat to formally announce his candidacy.

“As the only statewide elected Democrat, Commissioner Fried is concerned Congressman Crist is leaving his seat and putting our Democratic majority in jeopardy,” Fried’s Communications Director Max Flugrath told 8 On Your Side. “However, she wishes him the best in yet another statewide campaign.”

As Democrats try to win Florida’s governor race for the first time in more than two decades, MacManus said the party will also be “trying to hold on to a very, very narrow margin they have in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

MacManus pointed out that the state’s pandemic economic recovery is helping polling for DeSantis as he seeks a second term. 

“You look around a see a lot of other states have locked down and our struggling to get back,” she said.

News Channel 8’s Political Anchor Evan Donovan will be at Rep. Crist’s announcement. You can watch the major announcement on WFLA.com and on News Channel 8’s Facebook page starting at 11 a.m.   

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