Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wants his job back, but this time around he's running as a Democrat.
Crist joined Florida's Democratic gubernatorial campaign Monday morning, reports the Orlando Sentinel
, pitting himself as a potential contender against Republican Gov. Rick Scott in what could become one of the most contentious races in the country.
But even though he has a great deal of name recognition, Crist could face a tough battle against the Republican Party, which branded him a traitor years ago.
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The GOP lost its trust in Crist in February 2009, reports The Huffington Post
, when the then-governor hugged President Barack Obama when he was visiting Florida — and then embraced, not so literally, his stimulus program.
Crist opted to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mel Martinez that year, saying he would not seek re-election for governor. But as now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio surged ahead in the polls, Crist decided to instead run for the Senate as an Independent candidate and lost to Rubio.
He further alienated his former party when he campaigned in 2012
on behalf of Obama's re-election campaign, turning up later at a White House Christmas party, where he showed off a form that he used to switch his political affiliation to the Democratic Party.
The Democratic nomination isn't locked in. Former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich is also seeking the nod, and while she doesn't have Crist's name recognition, she doesn't plan to drop out of the race.
"I know there are people who would like me to get out of this race, but I'm not going to," Rich said. And she's ready for the media to dub Crist the frontrunner, but noted that "it's a long way from here to election day."
on Monday also launched a website, www.CharlieForFlorida.com
, to highlight what they say are Crist's failures as governor the last time around.
But on Monday, Crist brought up the trust issue, saying "I trust you, and you can trust me."
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But there are plenty of Republicans who don't trust him, including Rubio.
"Floridians have a clear choice between a governor with a proven record of job creation, and a consummate political opportunist that can't be trusted," Rubio said in a statement
Monday. "Charlie Crist's governorship was underwhelming to say the least. Rick Scott has proven himself very capable of cleaning up after Charlie's mess, creating jobs, and restoring Floridians' hope about the future."
And Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry cast further doubt on the former party member.
"When Florida needed Charlie Crist the most during difficult economic times, he ran away," said Curry. "If he really wants to be governor now, why did he quit the first time?"
He also accused Crist of only being interested in himself, and said that "when things got tough in Florida he abandoned the state to pursue the bright lights of Washington, D.C.
"During his four-year term, 830,000 Floridians lost their jobs, the unemployment rate increased over 7 points, and state debt increased by over $5 billion. This is the record of a failed governor and there is bipartisan agreement that Charlie Crist shouldn’t be governor. If he wants to be governor again, why did he quit the first time around?"
Meanwhile, Crist said his platform will follow mostly Democratic lines, with promises of increases in education and infrastructure spending, along with a push for renewable energy programs.
But another promise, "I do believe in cutting taxes," was more along lines with Crist's former Republican roots. He also promised a new cabinet-level position for promoting trade.
Crist hedged questions about his new party affiliation, saying that was a concern for the "far-right wing," but said he was proud to run as a Democrat while chastising Republicans.
On Monday, he said Republicans are people who believe that "anyone who doesn't agree with them is an enemy."
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However, Crist said party affiliation shouldn't matter, because "you aren't the governor of any one party, you are the governor of all Floridians."
But his words didn't sooth Republicans, who lined up to comment on the campaign Monday afternoon.
"As our former governor, Charlie Crist’s record isn’t glowing," said Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
. "Under his watch we lost 832,000 jobs, the unemployment rate jumped by over 7 percentage points, and Florida added over $5 billion in state debt. We need a governor who will make Florida their #1 priority, even when times are tough. With Charlie, we can’t trust this will be the case."
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