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Saturday August 30th 2014

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A Party To Call His Own

Crist talks about his political journey

Charlie Crist still hasn’t filed to run for Florida governor. The former Republican has registered as a Democrat, written a book about leaving the GOP and is rumored to be close to stepping into the race against Rick Scott.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and 2010 nominee Alex Sink have all said they are passing on the bid—clearing the path for Crist to win the Democratic nomination. Former State Senator Nan Rich is his only serious competitor still remaining.

Yet, Crist hasn’t pulled the trigger on his campaign.

Recently Crist talked with attorney and political pundit Mike Papantonio and Independent News publisher Rick Outzen on the Ed Schultz Radio Show about his political plans.

Crist dropped out of the Republican Party during the 2010 Senate race when it became clear Marco Rubio was going to win the GOP primary. He stayed in the race as an Independent, but lost to Rubio in the general election.

Meanwhile in the Florida’s governor race, Rick Scott, a political newcomer who jumped into the race late, pumped $60 million of his own money to narrowly defeat Sink in the general election.

What did Crist think of Scott’s surprise victory?

“I don’t understand it. I really don’t,” said Crist. “I think that when you run the first time. nobody really knows who you are. What’s that old expression? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t think Floridians are going to be fooled again.”

Crist’s senate campaign came at the time that the ultraconservative Tea Party was gaining momentum. He said that movement led to his eventual switch to the Democratic Party.

“I’m a commonsense, down the middle sort of guy and always was, even when I was a Republican,” said Crist. “It looks like the Tea Party has hijacked the Republican Party. There are plenty of good Republicans out there that aren’t on this fringe, but they’ve let the fringe take over the whole game. It makes no sense.”

He pointed to defeats of moderate Republican incumbents, like Sen. Richard Luger of Indiana, to Tea Party candidates. “A lot of really good decent people just aren’t welcome anymore,” he said. “Even Jeb Bush said not long ago that he thought it would be difficult for his own father and Ronald Reagan to be successful in a Republican primary today. It’s gotten that bad.”

He felt that he was left with no alternative but to get out of the Republican Party.

“The GOP left me. I didn’t leave them. It’s unbelievable, what’s happened. I could not be happier to finally be at home as a Democrat.”

Crist has written a book on what he calls his “journey” to the Democratic Party—
“The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.” It’s scheduled to be released in early 2014.

“In the book, I talk about this journey of going from Republican to Independent, to, finally, a Democrat and being home, and why that happened,” he said.

He added, “On December 7th, last year, at the White House, I became a Democrat. The President gave me a fist pump and it was a wonderful celebration. Politically, I have never been happier.”

He said that the 2014 governor’s race may boil down to how voters see the role of government.  For him, the purpose of government is more than simply helping corporations hire more people.

“At the end of the day, you need somebody, I think, that’s in office that understands that government is there for a purpose,” said Crist. “The purpose is to help people defend our country and educate our children, and do things for people, who but for it, would not have an opportunity to live a life that is enjoyable. We have a duty to help them, I believe.”

He regrets that the Republican Party has become the negative party—anti-immigrant, anti-minority and anti-women.

“It’s stunning what it’s become,” he said. “You need to have people, and there are still a lot of them—moderates in the Republican party—that get that, but unfortunately, there’s a lot that are being allowed to run the party now over there that don’t.”

Sounding a little like Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward in his 2013 State of the City address, Crist, too, talked about optimism.

“I know the future is going to be very bright, certainly for our Florida, ” he said. “It will because I’m an optimist. I look forward to the future.”