MIAMI — Representative Charlie Crist, Democrat of Florida, entered the race for governor on Tuesday, changing into the primary challenger to Ron DeSantis, a Republican who raised his profile by shunning lockdowns throughout the pandemic and is now a number one contender for his get together’s presidential nomination in 2024.
“Every step of the way, this governor has been more focused on his personal political fortune than the struggle of everyday Floridians,” Mr. Crist mentioned below the blazing solar in St. Petersburg as he made his announcement. “That’s just not right. Just like our former president, he always takes credit but never takes responsibility.”
His candidacy signaled the beginning of an extended, costly and most certainly bruising marketing campaign in a battleground state that has been swinging away from Democrats since 2016. Florida’s exceptionally tight governor’s races have been determined by round one proportion level since 2010, at all times in Republicans’ favor. The final Democrat to win election to the governor’s mansion was Lawton Chiles, who gained a second time period in 1994.
Mr. Crist’s advisers see him because the Democrat with essentially the most expertise operating statewide and interesting to a coalition of liberal and average voters in the way in which that President Biden did nationally — although not in Florida, which former President Donald J. Trump gained by three proportion factors.
Mr. Crist has an in depth political historical past in Florida and is extensively identified all through the state. He served as governor as a Republican from 2007 to 2011 earlier than operating unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as an impartial, dropping to Marco Rubio. After switching events, he later misplaced a Democratic bid for governor in 2014 in opposition to the Republican incumbent, Rick Scott.
The arc of his political evolution was evident in the video he used on Tuesday to announce his candidacy. It featured footage of the hug with former President Barack Obama that led to Mr. Crist’s departure from the Republican Party 11 years in the past.
But Mr. Crist’s expertise is unlikely to deter different Democratic candidates from becoming a member of the race. His clout has been diminished by years of electoral failures and by a celebration that’s more and more open to a wider vary of extra various public figures to be its commonplace bearers. Two ladies, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Representative Val Demings of Orlando, are contemplating their very own runs for the governor’s mansion as Democrats.
Ms. Fried scheduled a information convention in the State Capitol for a similar time as Mr. Crist’s announcement. “As the only statewide elected Democrat, it makes absolute sense for me to be running for governor,” she mentioned, however she added that she was not making an announcement at the moment.
Ms. Demings released a video on Tuesday that, whereas not declaring a candidacy, highlighted her profession as Orlando police chief, impeachment supervisor in Congress and a shortlisted vice-presidential choose for Mr. Biden.
Similar jockeying — although not fairly as intense — is underway amongst Democrats trying to go up in opposition to Mr. Rubio, who additionally faces re-election subsequent yr.
Asked about Mr. Crist’s announcement on Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis mocked Mr. Crist’s party-switching. “Which party is he going to run under, do we know for sure?” he mentioned.
Referring to Democrats in basic, he mentioned: “I implore them, from my political interest: Run on closing schools. Run on locking people down. Run on closing businesses.” He added, “I would love to have that debate.”
In advance of Mr. Crist’s announcement, Mr. DeSantis held an official occasion on Monday at Mr. Crist’s favourite seafood restaurant in St. Petersburg, touting the wins he had racked up throughout the session the Republican-controlled Legislature concluded final week — which he and Republican lawmakers used to champion insurance policies that may attraction to Florida’s more and more conservative voters.
And on Monday, Mr. DeSantis signed a invoice and an government order putting off most of Florida’s remaining pandemic restrictions, contrasting his administration’s aversion for mandates to the restrictions in states led by Democrats.
Still, Mr. Crist was withering in his criticism of the governor on Tuesday.
“Gov. DeSantis’s vision of Florida is clear: If you want to vote, he won’t help you,” Mr. Crist mentioned. “If you’re working, he won’t support you. If you’re a woman, he will not empower you. If you’re an immigrant, he won’t accept you. If you’re facing discrimination, he won’t respect you. If you’re sick, he won’t care for you.”