ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Fresh off a fierce primary battle against fellow Democrat Nikki Fried, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist showed signs Wednesday that he’s willing to match incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis’ combative style.
Crist met with voters at a restaurant in his hometown of St. Petersburg Wednesday. Up-close-and-personal is Crist’s not-so-secret-weapon as he aims to unseat DeSantis.
DeSantis, on the other hand, has never stopped campaigning now that Crist is his official opponent. Look for a more targeted message directed at the former Republican governor-turned-Democratic congressman.
Crist didn’t mince words in describing what he thinks of DeSantis’ most fervent supporters.
“Those who support the governor should stay with him and vote for him and I don’t want your vote,” Crist said. “If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there.”
Crist will have Democrats. He’s counting on independent voters and more moderate Republicans frustrated at Florida’s hard right turn.
“The guy is anti-democracy. I’ll be pro-democracy,” Crist said. “He’s anti-women. I’ll be pro-women. People are yearning and thirsting for decency,” he said.
DeSantis maintains a bullish outlook.
“We are going to generate the biggest Republican turnout this state has ever seen in a governor’s race,” the governor said.
DeSantis is promising to “solidify (Florida) as the nation’s citadel of freedom” and the incumbent governor has a large war chest funded in part by big national donors.
But Crist said he doesn’t care.
“I will always have your back,” he said. “And you can’t buy that. You can’t buy that trust.”
There’s very little crossover or agreement between the two candidates as to the direction of the state of Florida and what policies that should be enacted. With that very clearly defined choice, it’s going to all come down to the turnout in November.