Former Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist says he became a Democrat after the GOP was "hijacked by the tea party."
"The party just really changed. Or, I should say, the leadership of the party, primarily," Crist said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
To make his point, Crist recalled a statement from former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who said the party was "perceived as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay couples, anti-environment, anti-education."
"When the party goes in that direction, and the leadership guides it that way, really hijacked by the tea party. That's what happened to the Republican party in our country," Crist said.
A Republican when he served as Florida governor from 2007 to 2011, Crist ran as an Independent for the Senate in 2010, losing to Republican Marco Rubio. In 2012, he officially joined the Democratic Party and spoke at the Democratic National Convention after endorsing the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Now, Crist is running for governor again as a Democrat in hopes of taking over the job now held by conservative Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The reaction was "harsh" when he hugged Obama at a 2010 event in Florida, while he was still a Republican, Crist recalled. Following that, he said he would often get heckled by people suggesting he "go hug Obama again."
Addressing several issues expected to come up in the race for governor, Crist said he remains pro-immigration because "it's important to embrace that, because then you're embracing America." Originally a proponent of civil unions only, he said he now supports the legalization of gay marriage.
In his book, "The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat," Crist goes into detail about why he switched parties.
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