Crist served as Florida’s Republican governor more than a decade ago and is now a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Democratic Party in the state is deeply divided by the primary election for governor. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Crist’s opponent, attacked him for flip-flopping on controversial issues, including abortion and criminal justice.
While acknowledging Fried’s hard work, Crist made it plain that he had his sights set on DeSantis as he declared victory Tuesday night: “In terms of what is at stake, this race could not be more crucial. The fate of our most basic liberties is at stake, chums. Voting on a woman’s right to choose. Voting is where democracy happens. This ballot is about your minority rights.”
He used strong language, calling DeSantis a “bully” and “dangerous,” and he made it clear that he is a candidate who fully supports abortion rights.
“On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order protecting a women’s right to choose.”
While running as a moderate and the one most likely to defeat DeSantis in November, Crist outraised Fried in campaign contributions. He has tried to win over independents and disenchanted Republicans, and he has received support from influential groups with a liberal slant, including the state’s teachers union.
Electoral success has been a mixed bag for Crist. Before challenging Marco Rubio for the Senate seat in Florida as an independent candidate in 2010, he was a Republican. In 2014, he ran for governor again as a Democrat but was defeated by current U.S. Senator and Republican Rick Scott by a margin of around one percentage point.
The focus shifts to November.
Having survived the Democratic primary, Crist will face DeSantis in the general election.
Some say the influential governor is thinking about running for president in 2024. He has over $100 million in the bank and a national profile. DeSantis is well-known for fighting for better education, particularly regarding how teachers discuss topics like racism, history, and the LGBTQ community with their students. He has pushed for legislation that would make it illegal for teachers and employers to bring up such topics in school.
Crist needs the almost 4 million Florida voters who are not associated with any political party if he is to win in November. Republicans now outnumber Democrats in the state’s voter rolls, but statewide elections are typically close. In 2018, DeSantis himself won by a razor-thin margin.