In St Pete, Crist Blasts DeSantis in First Appearance of Gov Campaign

(Adding reaction from DeSantis)

ST. PETERSBURG -- Congressman and former governor Charlie Crist threw his hat into the ring with the slogan "Florida For All". It may signal the beginning of a free-for-all in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor.

He took several shots at incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis, claiming that "every step of the way, (DeSantis) has been more focused on his personal political fortune than the struggles of everyday Floridians, just like our former president, he always claims credit and never takes responsibility."

"Governor DeSantis has failed us," Crist said. He claimed the governor was "stacking the deck against the middle class" and doesn't support voting rights or believe that climate change is real. Crist zeroed in on the governor's COVID policy, echoing the claims of some local officials when he said DeSantis "left local officials to fend for themselves."

Before Crist spoke, Pinellas Democrats in office were the warm up acts. State Representative Ben Diamond heavily criticized actions by this year's Republican legislature, including the elections bill and the transgender athletes' bill, claiming legislators only cared about "culture wars" and calling the session a "train wreck". He also took aim at Governor DeSantis saying that Crist believed in working together and not "speaking over fellow Floridians or... reporters, just to get on Fox News."

After serving as a state Senator and Attorney General, Crist won the Governor's office in 2006 as a Republican, He switched to an Independent in 2010 and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, splitting the Democatic vote as Marco Rubio won the seat. Crist switched again, to the Democrats in 2012, ran unsuccessfully for Governor, then won a congressional seat in 2016.

He's likely to face opposition within the party from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Orlando congresswoman Val Demings, among others.

Reporters asked Governor DeSantis in Vero Beach for his response. "What party is he going to run in? He's lost as a Republican, Independent, Democrat... he votes with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time in Congress, I thought maybe he gives the Green Party a chance..."

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