Democrat Charlie Crist files to run for Governor of Florida

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Democrat Charlie Crist has filed to run for Governor of Florida, according to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections candidate tracking website.

His “comeback pitch” has a bit of everything — contrition, outrage and pride with a touch of humility—as the newly converted Democrat launches his campaign to regain his office.

Crist is the consummate politician on a mission to capture the hearts of Florida voters, writes Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida.

“Each voter should do what they feel in their heart. Men, women, gay, straight, black, white, young, old, it doesn’t matter,” Crist said in a recent interview. “They should vote for who they feel will fight for them the best, whoever it is.”

On Monday, Crist will kick-off his campaign for governor in St. Petersburg — his hometown — which he affectionately calls “The Burg.”

Crist’s appearance at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual conference in Orlando last week bolstered his reputation as what some call one of the America best retail politicians. The appearance was a clear sign of what will come in the next year.

The Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat last year is transforming his political history into a message reflecting voter frustration with government.

“What breaks my heart is what I have seen over the past three years from the administration in Tallahassee,” Crist told party faithful Sunday at a Democratic LGBT caucus.

“You come in and your first act is to whack (education) $1.3 billion. And then follow that incredible act with a second go-round … where you whack higher ed $300 million,” Crist said.

“And then you have the gall to go to the education community and teachers … and say you know what I think I can give them $2,500 (salary increases) and that’ll take care of it and they’ll forget,” he added. “I’ve got news for you buddy. Teachers are smart and they cannot be bought.”

Voters can expect to see Crist blast Scott on hot button issues like Florida’s rejection of expanding Medicaid and pollution from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

According to Kam, during the interview Crist became passionate about the Lake Okeechobee issue, so much so he sketched a map of the river system on a napkin nearby.

Scott blames both Obama and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the problems with pollution, a huge issue on the Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida.

Crist also hammered Scott for refusing $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail project linking Tampa to Orlando, money that Crist already had accepted.

“Unbelievable. That could have created tens of thousands of jobs,” Crist told the News Service of Florida.

Crist also questioned Scott’s character, echoing former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who lost in the 2010 primary to Scott. Scott was the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, the health care organization that paid $1.7 billion in fines and settlements over accusations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, just as he was leaving to run for governor.

“I don’t know much about him that isn’t ethically challenged,” Crist said. “The notion that we’ve elected an individual who was the head of a company that had to pay the largest fine for fraud at the time in the history of our country is just mind-boggling.”

After entering the race, Crist faces Nan Rich, the former Senate Minority Leader who has been campaigning for governor for more than a year.

Rich, the preferred candidate of progressives, currently struggles with fundraising; she has less than $100,000 cash-on-hand. Crist will probably eclipse Rich’s contributions on his first official day campaigning.

Some insiders anticipate that Crist, if elected, will offer Rich a role as secretary of the Department of Children and Families—that is, if she only drops out of the race.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.