Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist says the struggle for the governor's mansion this fall will be the 'most consequential race in the history of our state.'
The results of Florida's primary election on Aug. 23 will impact how the state legislates issues including LGBTQ rights, curriculum standards in public schools, and gun safety.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist beat the state's commissioner of agriculture, Nikki Fried, by 60%-35% to win his party's nomination for governor.
Crist, a seasoned politician who was a Republican when he served as the state's governor between 2007 and 2011 but changed parties in 2012, will now face incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis, a popular Republican with presumed presidential aspirations and a huge campaign war chest.
In his acceptance speech, Crist said: "Tonight the people of Florida clearly sent a message: They want a governor who cares about them to solve real problems, who preserves our freedom, not a bully who divides us and takes our freedom away." He cast the coming contest in stark terms: "The stakes could not be any higher for this election. Our fundamental freedoms are literally on the ballot, my friends. A woman's right to choose — on the ballot. Democracy — on the ballot. Your rights as minorities are on this ballot. That's what's at stake in this election."
Referring to DeSantis, Crist said, "Make no mistake about it. Because this guy wants to be president of the United States of America, and everybody knows it. ... I'm sad to say, I no longer recognize the leaders of the Republican Party. They're extremist. They want to turn back the clock on our freedom. They're trying to undermine our democracy in ways no one could have ever imagined. That stops here. That stops now. And it stops with our Florida. This is the most consequential race in the history of our state."
After Crist was declared the Democratic primary winner, Planned Parenthood of Florida tweeted its endorsement of him, saying, "We are proud to endorse @CharlieCrist and congratulate him on his primary win tonight! Charlie is dedicated to defending reproductive freedom in our state including access to abortion. We know he has what it takes to take down DeSantis!"
Crist will have to run a tough campaign against DeSantis, however. Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994, and last year, more Republicans were registered to vote in the state than Democrats. Money will likely be a deciding factor as well: DeSantis has amassed a record amount in campaign contributions for a gubernatorial race.
DeSantis has also taken the unusual step of endorsing candidates for local school boards: Of 30 candidates he endorsed, 21 beat their Democratic-endorsed opponents, according to Politico, signaling ongoing conservative pressure on education policy after DeSantis in March signed a law prohibiting teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with public school students until the fourth grade.
In the race for Florida attorney general, former state attorney Aramis Ayala won the Democratic primary and will face incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody. Ayala ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, noting her work to create a death penalty review board, and has made her support for civil citations instead of punishments for nonviolent juvenile first-time offenders part of her campaign.
Democratic Rep. Val Demings, the former police chief of Orlando, won her party's nomination to run in November against incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010. If successful, she would be the first Black woman to serve as a U.S. senator from Florida.
Demings supports gun safety legislation and in 2021 introduced in the House H.R. 2466, the Law Enforcement Protection Act, which would add armor-piercing concealable weapons to the definition of "firearms" in the National Firearms Act.
A poll conducted prior to Tuesday's primary election by the University of North Florida showed Demings, who also served as a manager during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, with leading Rubio 48%-44%.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.