With Nancy Argenziano and Patrick Murphy running for Congress, is this the beginning of the ‘Crist Caucus’?

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Nancy Argenziano’s announcement yesterday that she will challenge a Tea Party member of Congress is interesting for any number of reasons, not least of which is her corollary announcement that she will switch parties from Republican to Democrat.

Aregenziano becomes the second former Republican to switch parties in order to run for the U.S. House against a Congressman who is an out-and-out member of the Tea Party; the first such former Republican is Patrick Murphy, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Allen West.

Of course, Murphy is already locked in an increasingly competitive primary against Lois Frankel, but he has also raised the most money of any Democratic challenger in the country.

Two thousand of those dollars Murphy collected have come from a man not normally associated with writing checks to Democratic candidates: former Governor Charlie Crist.  In addition to this financial support, one of Crist’s political allies in South Florida, uber consultant Eric Johnson, is show-running Murphy’s campaign.

Don’t be surprised to see Charlie Crist also write a check to Nancy Argenziano.  She was a strong supporter of him while she was in the Legislature and was one of his appointments to the Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities — an issue even Crist’s detractors must admit he followed closely.

Argenziano’s and Murphy’s campaigns, however fledgling, represent the first rumblings of a ‘Crist Caucus’ comprised of former Republicans, loosely allied with the former Governor, who are running against full-throated Tea Partiers occupying seats won from the Democrats in 2010.

These campaigns also represent, to this unabashed Crist supporter, a philosophical pathway for the former Governor to do what Argenziano and Murphy have done: switch parties and run against a Tea Partier.  In Crist’s case, this would be against Gov. Rick Scott.

Read Argenziano’s words…

“The current iteration of the party abandoned real Republican principles long ago to cater to ideologues and corporations — the Koch entities, most notably — whose interests lie in the profiteering of America and the sacking of the middle class. Current Republican leaders have neither patience with nor allowance for honest elected officials, and they demand that members of the various legislatures — who, after all, have sworn to uphold the Constitution — instead just follow the hijacked party line and shut up.”

Ask yourself this: couldn’t Charlie Crist say the same thing, except in his more optimistic voice?

Now, both Argenziano and Murphy will face Sisyphean challenges in order to win their races, but their candidacies can certainly be construed as the beginning of a ‘Crist Caucus.’

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.