Campaign

Crist to face off against DeSantis for Florida governor

Associated Press/Chris O'Meara
U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., speaks to the media before voting Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Crist is running for Florida Governor against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the primary election.

Rep. Charlie Crist is projected to win Florida’s Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday, setting up a general election match-up against Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican heavyweight who’s seen as a potential 2024 presidential contender.

The Associated Press called the race at 8 p.m.

Crist, who won the governor’s mansion as a Republican more than 15 years ago, defeated state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic nominating contest.

His victory sets him up for his second general election campaign to reclaim the office since he vacated the governor’s mansion in 2011, having opted against running for a second consecutive term. 

He lost a bid for governor to incumbent Rick Scott in 2014 before winning a seat in the U.S. House representing St. Petersburg in 2016. 

Throughout her campaign, Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat, sought to cast herself as a new face for Florida Democrats, who have struggled for years to fix a crumbling party infrastructure and reverse a painful losing streak. 

But in nominating Crist, Florida Democrats turned to a familiar face to help them reclaim the governor’s mansion after more than 20 years of being locked out, convinced that his brand of collegial, compromise-minded politics can help win over moderates and independents turned off by DeSantis’s combative political style.

In a speech Tuesday night, Crist took a swipe at DeSantis’ widely assumed 2024 ambitions.

“Our fundamental freedoms are literally on the ballot my friends. A woman’s right to choose: on the ballot. Democracy: on the ballot. Your rights as minorities are on this ballot. That’s what’s at stake in this election,” he said. “Make no mistake about it because this guy wants to be president of the United States of America and everybody knows it. However when we defeat him on Nov. 8 that show is over.”

Defeating DeSantis, however, is shaping up to be a herculean task. 

The Florida governor has a swelling national profile, is a rising star among conservatives and has so far raised more than $100 million for his reelection campaign — far more than Crist has. Recent polling shows DeSantis’s approval rating above water, a positive sign for an incumbent seeking a second term in office.

Of course, there’s still time for things to change. Despite his popularity among the Republican Party’s conservative base, DeSantis isn’t immune to controversy. And with the Democratic primary now out of the way, the party still has a chance to coalesce around Crist ahead of the November election.

Fried on Tuesday night threw her support behind Crist.

“My priority is making sure we make DeSantis a one-term governor and not eligible to run for president of the United States in 2024. Ron DeSantis is our greatest threat to democracy so I will do everything in my power, including being on Charlie’s ticket to make sure that happens in November,” she told Meet the Press.

Updated at 11:41 p.m.

Tags Charlie Crist Florida Florida governor primary Florida governors race Florida primaries Ron DeSantis
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