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Who is Charlie Crist? Get to know Florida's candidate for governor ahead of the 2022 election

Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Charlie Crist addresses the crowd in St. Petersburg after winning the Democratic nomination for governor in the primary election on Aug. 23, 2022.

Charlie Crist has been Florida's governor before, and he's attempting to return for his second term in Tallahassee. The time in between has taken him in many different directions.

The path that Charlie Crist has taken to seek his second term as Florida governor has led him in many different directions — literally.

Newcomers to Florida who will be voting in their first election may see him as a staunch Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — like Crist, a longtime Pinellas County resident — on issues ranging to abortion, voting rights, education, and personal freedoms.

READ MORE: Who is Ron DeSantis? Get to know Florida's governor ahead of the 2022 election

What they may not realize is that Crist, 66, was once Florida's governor from 2007-11, but as a Republican who replaced term-limited Jeb Bush after defeating Democrat Jim Davis in the general election.

Crist has held a number of offices in the state, ranging from U.S. senator, education commissioner, and attorney general before becoming governor. And most recently, he served in the U.S. House, representing District 13 — which covers Clearwater to southern Pinellas County.

But it's the time in between — and his shift from Republican to Independent to Democrat — that makes his quest for the governor's seat so intriguing.

Then there was the hug.

Here are some other things you may not know about Charlie Crist:

  • Crist was born in Altoona, Pa.
  • His family name was originally "Christodoulos."
  • His father is of Greek Cypriot and Lebanese descent.
  • He attended Riviera Middle School and St. Petersburg High School.
  • He was a walk-on quarterback for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 1974-75.
  • He lost a race for U.S. Senate to Democrat Bob Graham in 1998.
  • He won races — as a Republican — for state Senate, state Education Commissioner and Florida Attorney General before becoming governor in 2007.
  • In 2009, Crist announced that he would not run for reelection as governor, making him the first Florida governor not to run for reelection since 1964.
  • Crist switched to an Independent after trailing Marco Rubio in a race for U.S. Senate in 2010. He lost to Rubio in a three-way race.
  • He lost his attempt to return to the governor's mansion — after switching to a Democrat — four years later, to Rick Scott.
  • In 2012, Crist endorsedPresident Barack Obama in his campaign for reelection over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, saying that the Republican Party "pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people."
  • Crist was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where he said, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me."
  • He co-authored "The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat" in 2014. In it, Crist claimed that his career in the Republican Party was destroyed by a hug between him and Obama during a stop in Fort Myers in 2009.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.
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