ST. PETERSBURG -- In front of a crowd of a couple of hundred people on the waterfront in his hometown, former Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist announced Monday he is running for governor as a Democrat “and the reason is to put you back in charge because you deserve a governor that wakes up every day thinking about you, who you can trust to govern honestly, in our collective best interest.”
Crist, accompanied on stage by his wife, Carole, and Democratic officials, said, “Tallahassee is out of control. ... The voice of the people has been silenced by the financial bullies and the special interests. ... You really have no advocate there anymore.”
Crist attacked Gov. Rick Scott for campaigning in 2010 as an outsider but not keeping with it.
“He went from taking over Tallahassee to becoming the example of what’s wrong with the place,” Crist said. “The more I watched Rick Scott govern ... 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.”
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, opened the event by endorsing Crist.
“We can put our trust in a man who relates to all of us,” Castor said.
Crist spoke from a lectern on a small black stage, facing north, with an American flag, a Florida flag and a huge sign that said THE PEOPLE’S GOVERNOR in white letters on a blue backdrop.
Lots of people were holding CHARLIE CRIST FOR GOVERNOR 2014 white and light blue signs with a sun on it.
Among the officials present: state Reps. Darryl Rouson and Dwight Dudley, St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse and Dr. Charles Crist, the former governor’s father.
Kenneth Brown, a retired steelmaker and charter school employee, referred to Crist as “the future governor” and intentionally sported a light blue shirt and striped blue tie.
“Florida politics needs to change,” he said. “I think he could make things better for teachers, for education, for the environment. He really cares about all those things.”
Norma Lazarus is working on Kriseman’s campaign for St. Petersburg mayor, but she has met Crist and said, “I promised Charlie I’d work on his campaign.”
“He touts himself as the people’s governor and I think he will be,” Lazarus said. “He listens.”
Doug Hickman, from Redington Shores, didn’t vote for Crist when he ran as a Republican in 2006, but he is fed up with Gov. Rick Scott.
“I’ve been here since ’78, and this is the most embarrassed I’ve been by a governor in my entire life,” he said. “We need to get a better governor.”
Carole Bowers, from Madeira Beach, held up a sign reading “CRIST = OPPORTUNIST.”
“I’m so opposed to him, his weak character, his lack of core values,” she said. “All he’s doing is just smearing his opponent.”
The worst-kept secret in politics was confirmed Friday afternoon when the Republican Party of Florida spotted Crist’s official filing with the state Division of Elections.
Crist has been courting top Democratic fundraisers from across the state and country in recent months, has launched a new website, and lately is often accompanied by top Democratic strategist Steve Schale.
Public polls consistently show Crist beating Gov. Scott if the election were held today.
Scott, a former health care executive, spent more than $75 million of his own money to narrowly win the governor’s race in 2010, and his backers say he will likely spend closer to $100 million on his re-election. Let’s Get to Work has raised more than $18 million.
Crist, 57, faces a primary challenge from former state Sen. Nan Rich of Broward County, who argues that she is the true Democrat in the race. But Rich, 71, has raised little money.