Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for governor, speaks with Florida Keys Democrats during a May 9 campaign stop at Sally O’Brien’s Irish pub. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Charlie Crist ordered a Miller Lite and rolled up his sleeves at a Key West bar, enlisting local voters in his effort to “get rid of the clown we have now” in the governor’s office. 

“I’m here to get rid of him for you,” Crist told a group of Florida Keys Democrats at Sally O’Brien’s Irish pub on May 9.

The former Florida governor (2007-2011) and current U.S. representative is running as a Democrat to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a right-wing favorite, a presumed presidential candidate in the coming years, and a formidable incumbent opponent.

“What has he done? He’s taken away women’s right to choose. He’s made LGBT kids feel ashamed,” Crist said in Key West. “Housing — what’s he done for that? He raided the Sadowski Fund (created to fund affordable housing). And why? Because he doesn’t give a damn. He doesn’t care.

“You don’t have to be a Democrat to realize he’s so far gone. He’s just gone,” Crist said. “He’s chasing that rabbit hole, hard-right, red-meat Republican vote for 2024 and he’s completely taken his eye off the ball of Florida. We’re one-third Republican, one-third Democrat, one-third independent. We’re purple. But he’s lost sight of that because he’s intoxicated about being in the White House. Perfect. Let him go down those rabbit holes. It’s fun as you-know-what to run against this boneheaded guy.”

Crist emphasized on Monday that he’s running against DeSantis, not the fellow Democrats he must defeat in the Aug. 23 primary to secure his party’s nomination.

“They’re good people; they’re friends of mine, but we have to win,” Crist said.

The primary field of Democrats includes Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried and State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who is prohibited from campaigning during the legislature’s two-month session. 

In launching his gubernatorial campaign one year ago in May 2021, Crist said he wants to  bridge the fissure that divides Floridians and restore decency and civility to state government.

“Florida has a governor that’s only focused on his future, not yours,” Crist said at the May 2021 press conference announcing his campaign. “He doesn’t care, and unless you can write him a campaign check, you don’t exist. … Unlike this governor and the Republican leadership in Tallahassee, we will listen to our fellow Floridians. … You deserve jobs you can live on, housing you can afford and justice that’s equal.”

When asked about Crist’s candidacy in 2021, DeSantis asked, jokingly, “Which party? Do we even know for sure?” The Tampa Bay Times reported in May 2021. 

After being elected governor as a Republican, Crist became a Democrat in 2012, when he was alienated by Republicans for greeting the newly installed President Barack Obama with a bipartisan hug. He ran for governor again in 2014, this time as a Democrat, but lost by one percentage point to Republican Rick Scott.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.