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Politics

Greek-American Charlie Crist, Former GOP Gov. of Florida, Now Runs as Democrat

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Greek-American Congressman Charlie Crist, who served as Florida governor for a single term before running for other offices, is seeking the state's highest office once again — this time as a Democrat.

Crist, whose family named was adapted from the Greek Christodoulos, released videos on May 4 leaving no doubt the campaign is on. One video contrasts Crist's record as governor with that of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

"That's why I'm running for governor," Crist says in the video.

Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District and planned a more formal announcement later on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. He also plans a tour of five cities in coming days.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are frequently mentioned as potential Democratic candidates. There may well be others.

Crist has some built-in advantages in terms of name recognition and a strong fund-raising network, said Aubrey Jewett, political science professor at the University of Central Florida.

"He certainly has a shot to win. I'm not sure he will," Jewett said. "He has been around the block."

Crist, 64, does have a political resume that's hard to beat.

Crist served in the State Senate through the 1990s, then decided take on then-U.S. Sen. Bob Graham — one of Florida's most popular politicians. Crist lost.

After that, he served as state education commissioner, then as Florida attorney general. Next on the list was an unusual three-way race against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2010, in which Crist ran as independent. Rubio won re-election.

Then, after becoming a Democrat, Crist lost in 2014 to then-Gov. Rick Scott. Crist has now served three terms in the U.S. House.

In a recent interview, Crist said he has given this latest political foray a lot of thought.

"If you feel up to the task, and people are telling you it's time, I want to do it," Crist said.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for governor will take on DeSantis, who polls show remains popular in Florida. But Crist noted how often Florida statewide races are often settled by hundreds or even fewer votes.

"I really am an optimist. There are wins and losses in life," Crist said. "I think people deserve someone who has a servant's heart."

Crist was born in Altoona, PA, on July 24, 1956, to Charles Joseph Crist, an American physician of Greek-Cypriot and Lebanese descent, and Nancy (née Lee), of Scots-Irish, Swiss, and Welsh descent. His family moved to St. Petersburg, FL, when Crist was a child. He attended Wake Forest University for two years where he was a walk-on quarterback for the Demon Deacons, before transferring to Florida State University in Tallahassee. Crist earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State, where he was elected vice president of the student body and became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He received his J.D. from Samford University Cumberland School of Law.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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