Florida Doesn’t Need Charlie Crist

Illustration by Robert Crohan

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

The Trump era proved a dark age for Florida Democrats.

Not only was the governorship maintained by the Republicans, but a Senate seat was lost, and the State House and Senate grew even further out of reach. To put this in perspective, Texas has a smaller State House majority for the GOP than Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis is much more popular than his predecessor. In the eyes of many, Florida is becoming a GOP stronghold.

I am eager to see DeSantis leave office. And given his popularity within the GOP, failure to win reelection could cost him on the national stage. However, I don’t have high hopes that this will happen, and in fact see Texas as a better gubernatorial pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Two major Democrats have announced that they are challenging DeSantis: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and US Representative Charlie Crist. Crist served as Governor from 2007-2011 as a Republican.

In what is sure to be a contentious primary, I cannot ultimately forecast the outcome, but I can share a firm opinion: we don’t need, or want, Mr. Crist.

Don’t misunderstand: I respect and admire Charlie Crist as a leader and person, and his tenure as governor saw some major accomplishments. He seems to be doing well as a Congressman. However, nothing even remotely suggests that he can rally the party, concoct a winning strategy, or truly serve the disaffected.

The Trump years handed Florida Democrats some vicious lessons, including that our elections are year-round investments and legitimate heralds of the republic that must be taken seriously. I had to learn some of these the hard way, including the overlooked takeaway that ceding passion to appease the right is a losing strategy. That is exactly what Mr. Crist is doing as we speak.

In the years since Crist’s 2014 race against Governor Rick Scott, the US has gotten more partisan and much more progressive. Florida, with its overwhelming votes to raise the minimum wage and grant voting rights to ex-felons, has demonstrated a minimal liking for progressive ideas. This is why Andrew Gillum lost the governorship by the narrowest margin in recent memory.

As Pete Buttigieg pointed out, and 2020 proved, Republicans will taint any Democrat, moderate or progressive, as a leftist.

If anything, Nikki Fried is the more exciting and electable candidate given her win in the bloodbath of 2018. Her website shows more voter resources than Crist’s, revealing the progressive strategy against the moderate one, which includes more grassroots outreach.

Crist represents the establishment norm of the Florida Democratic Party, which also includes Gwen Graham and Alex Sink. These are strong leaders, but their history as candidates is beyond faulty, with Sink losing two consecutive statewide races. Florida should be the California of the south, but thanks to failed FDP leadership, we are looking more like Texas than Texas itself.

Given that Crist failed to unseat an unpopular Scott, he is in some ways the sole reason Florida has two Republican US Senators at the moment. Crist’s 2010 run for US Senate as an Independent sorely hurt Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, who may have defeated Marco Rubio had Crist stayed out.

Crist formerly serving as a Republican does not help things either, given that Democrats, including the disenfranchised, seem to be craving progressive leadership. Among other things, Crist has advocated against LGBTQA+ rights and the Affordable Care Act. Both are crucial for the FIU community.

Although his campaigning against DeSantis and the Florida GOP’s unjust voting restrictions are smart and commendable, it doesn’t change the reputation he has garnered. Mr. Crist has projected an image of bipartisanship, which is crucial. However, he seems very indecisive on major issues.

In order to inspire Florida’s “silent majority” and college voters, candidates must make clear the injustices being espoused by the GOP, along with a clear and consistent record on upholding forward-thinking values. Crist is the old, familiar blankie while Fried is the new and exciting plaid fluffy blanket. He seems likeable to me, but not exciting for voters the way Gillum and Fried are.

Fried can unite the party under a platform of victory and progress, contrasting herself with DeSantis. She is not too progressive, like Andrew Gillum, or too conservative, like Charlie Crist.

Honesty and consistency win races, as demonstrated by State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Orlando, US Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Seminole County, and the liberalization of Arizona, Virginia and Georgia. All of these areas were strongly Republican not too long ago.

Although it is not confirmed, and not for me to decide, Crist’s assertion that he left the GOP due to its racism towards Barack Obama seems doubtful. This, along with blatant “flip-flopping” on serious issues leaves a distrustful image on voters’ shoulders. He honestly reminds me of Mike Bloomberg, who after 9/11 supported the profiling and surveillance of NYC Muslims.

Unpopularity plagues aspiring politicians, and Crist is approved of in his district, but not by the entire state. DeSantis, however, is. Why waste potential on a third long-shot bid, when you represent a district that likes you, needs your help, and may go back to the GOP?

Florida has moved steadily towards the GOP, with St. Lucie, Jefferson, and Monroe Counties turning red and Miami-Dade turning purple even as Duval and the I-4 Corridor turn blue. Crist does not seem to be the type of Democrat who can run up the margins in all competitive areas. He won Miami-Dade by a decent margin in 2014, along with Palm Beach and Broward in 2010, but a lot has changed since these races: Republicans have made effective inroads in South Florida.

Things look bleak once again for Florida Democrats, who seem doomed to the same old tactics of spending huge sums on dismal outreach and relying on insulting monolithic assumptions about our electorate. I hope that Fried can pull it off and show Florida what the FDP should look like. Although I expect another Democratic loss no matter the candidate, I expect that this would be exacerbated with a Charlie Crist nomination.

If Mr. Crist runs away with this, I will gladly vote for him. But if this happens, expect me to spend my time campaigning for Beto O’Rourke in Texas. Same ol’, same ol’ is boring me, and the entirety of our great state. We deserve better.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Be the first to comment on "Florida Doesn’t Need Charlie Crist"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.