Charlie Crist, the popular former GOP Governor of Florida who changed affiliation to Independent in a failed attempt to become a U.S. Senator, tonight signed papers (image, top,) making him a Democrat, during a White House Christmas party. Crist made the announcement via Twitter.
— Charlie Crist (@charliecristfl) December 8, 2012
Charlie Crist, who lost his 2008 senatorial bid to Republican Marco Rubio, was a strong supporter of President Obama this year, and earned the derision of many Republicans when he was “caught” giving Obama a hug during the 2008 election.
Crist “relished the tough-on-crime nickname ‘Chain Gang Charlie’ and used to describe himself variously as a ‘Ronald Reagan Republican’ and a ‘Jeb Bush Republican’ — on Friday evening signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat,” the Tampa Bay Times reported tonight:
He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama’s re-election this year than any Florida Democrat.
The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated step: announcing his candidacy for governor, taking on Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and an untold number of Democrats who would challenge him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“I’ve had friends for years tell me, ‘You know Charlie, you’re a Democrat and you don’t know it,’ ” Crist, a career-long populist, recounted Friday night from Washington, D.C.
Crist “has been a strong supporter of higher pay for teachers. He works for a leading trial lawyer. He was a leading advocate for civil rights as governor and attorney general. And though he describes himself as “pro-life,” his voting record in the Legislature was mostly in favor of abortion rights. He has long been more of a populist than a pro-big business Republican,” the Times added:
“What changed is the leadership of the Republican Party,” Crist said in a phone interview Friday night. “As I said at the convention, I didn’t leave the Republican Party, it left me. Whether the issue was immigration, or education, or you name it — the environment. I feel at home now.”
Charlie and Carole Crist had a tour of the White House on Thursday and ran into Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president. He mentioned that he was thinking of signing papers to become a Democrat the next night at a White House reception.
“She said, ‘You’re always welcome in my party. I think it’s a great idea,’ ” recounted Crist.
Crist married his second wife in 2008, but has long been rumored to be gay and in June reports coming from court discovery documents stated Crist allegedly paid off men to hide homosexual affairs.
Crist is widely expected to challenge sitting Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, the health care magnate who is wildly unpopular in the Sunshine State.
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