Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), once one of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's (I) closest allies, on Friday criticized his decision to run for Senate as an Independent.
Crist appointed LeMieux, his former chief of staff and campaign adviser, to fill the seat of former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) in September after he resigned.
Nearly all Republicans at the state and national level have distanced themselves from Crist since he decided to make the Florida Senate race a three-way affair. But LeMieux's criticism is perhaps the most striking because of their close and long-running relationship.
"I am saddened that my friend, Governor Crist, has decided to leave the Republican Party," LeMieux said in a statement. "Our friendship runs deep, but my commitment to the principles of the Republican Party runs deeper. I cannot walk down the path he has chosen."
Last Monday LeMieux predicted Crist would remain in the race as a Republican. Before he switched, he was badly trailing former Florida House Speaker Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE in the Republican primary.
Critics have said he made the change for purely political reasons. Polls showed Crist had a path to victory as an Independent, but not as a Republican.
The centrist Crist billed himself as a problem-solver not beholden to one party or the other.
“I haven’t supported an idea because it’s a Republican idea or it’s a Democratic idea. I support ideas that I believe are good ideas for the people,” he said Thursday.
LeMieux said he would support the "Republican nominee," who is almost certain to be Rubio, though he did not mention him by name.
“I will support our Republican nominee and will continue to do
everything I can both in Florida and across the country to increase the
number of Republicans in the United States Senate," he said.