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Charles Crist

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Charles Crist

Charlie Crist
44th Governor of Florida
In office
January 2, 2007 – January 4, 2011
Lieutenant Jeff Kottkamp
Preceded by Jeb Bush
Succeeded by Rick Scott
35th Attorney General of Florida
In office
January 7, 2003 – January 2, 2007
Governor Jeb Bush
Preceded by Richard Doran
Succeeded by Bill McCollum
21st Education Commissioner of Florida
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 7, 2003
Governor Jeb Bush
Preceded by Tom Gallagher
Succeeded by Jim Horne
Personal details
Born Charles Joseph Crist, Jr.
(1956-07-24) July 24, 1956 (age 57)
Altoona, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
Independent (2010–2012)
Republican (Before 2010)
Spouse(s) Amanda Morrow (1979–1980)
Carole Rome (2008–present)
Alma mater Wake Forest University
Florida State University
Samford University
Religion Methodism
Website Personal website

Charles Joseph "Charlie" Crist, Jr. (/ˈkrɪst/; born July 24, 1956) is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th Governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. Crist began his political career as a Republican, serving in the Florida Senate from 1993 to 1999, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1998 and then serving as Florida Education Commissioner from 2001 to 2003 and Florida Attorney General from 2003 to 2007 before being elected Governor in 2006.

Crist declined to run for re-election as Governor in 2010, instead announcing on May 12, 2009, that he was running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by then-fellow Republican Mel Martinez. After initially leading in the race for the Republican nomination, he was overtaken in the polls by Tea Party candidate Marco Rubio and in April 2010, Crist left the Republican Party and became an Independent.[1] In the general election, he lost to Rubio in a three-way race, taking 30% of the vote to Rubio's 49% and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek's 20%. Crist's term as Governor ended in January 2011. On December 7, 2012, he joined the Democratic Party, having endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012.[2] On November 1, 2013, he announced that he was running for Governor in the 2014 election.[3]

Early life and education

Crist was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania[4] on July 24, 1956, to Charles Joseph Crist, Sr., an American physician of Greek Cypriot descent, and Nancy (née Lee), of Scots-Irish descent.[5] His family name is adapted from the original Greek name "Christodoulou".[6] Crist moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, as a child, where he attended Riviera Middle School[7][8] and graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 1974. He is the second of four children and has three sisters: Margaret Crist Wood, Elizabeth Crist Hyden, and Catherine Crist Kennedy. He attended Wake Forest University for two years, where he played quarterback for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons football team. Crist earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State University where he was elected Vice President of the student body and became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He received his J.D. from Samford University Cumberland School of Law.[9][10]

Law career

After graduating from the Samford University Law School in 1981, and having passed the bar on his third attempt,[11] Crist was hired as general counsel to Minor League Baseball, which was headquartered in St. Petersburg. Drawn to politics, Crist was a candidate for public office for the first time in 1986, as a Republican, in the primary race for a state Senate seat in Pinellas County. After losing in a runoff, Crist joined his brother-in-law in private practice in St. Petersburg, but soon returned to politics as an aide in the successful 1988 United States Senate campaign of Connie Mack III, whom he has since described as his political mentor.[12]

Florida Senate

Crist was elected to the Florida Senate in 1992, representing parts of St. Petersburg,[13] defeating longtime incumbent Democratic State Senator Helen Gordon Davis of Tampa.[14] Crist was able to unseat Gordon Davis following Florida's redistricting, which created an entirely new state senate district.[14] His victory was credited with ending the 128-year control of the Florida Senate by the Democratic Party, resulting in an even 20-20 tie in Senate between the Democrats and Republicans following the 1992 election.[14]

He established a reputation as a law-and-order senator, sponsoring legislation requiring inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole.[4] He supported teacher salary increases, co-sponsored laws that created charter schools, and created a vanity license plate sold to raise funds for Everglades conservation.[13] As chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, Crist pursued an investigation into actions of then-governor Lawton Chiles amid allegations that Chiles' campaign had made "scare calls" to senior citizens days before the 1994 gubernatorial election. Chiles eventually testified before Crist and the committee and admitted that his campaign had made the calls.[4][12]

Florida Education Commissioner

Crist gained statewide name recognition in 1998 as the Republican challenger to the popular incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Graham. He lost to Graham by 26 percent[15] but was elected Education Commissioner of Florida in 2000 – a position he held until it became an office filled by political appointment in 2003, pursuant to a 1998 constitutional amendment.[12]

Florida Attorney General

In 2002, Crist was elected Attorney General. Supporters of his candidacy included America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, who filed Crist's gubernatorial candidacy paperwork, citing his work with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. During his term as Attorney General, Crist was praised by civil rights and consumer groups for expanding the powers of his office to prosecute civil rights and fraud cases; for combating spam e-mail; freezing utility rates; adding restrictions to telecom companies, and protecting the environment.[4][16] He was criticized by pro-life advocates during the Terri Schiavo case when he ended official attempts to keep Schiavo on life support.[4][17]

In September 2006, Canadian anti-consumer-fraud activist and author Les Henderson criticized Crist's handling of the Lou Pearlman-Wilhelmina Scouting Network affair in his self-published book Under Investigation. In 2004, Jacqueline Dowd, the assistant attorney general leading the investigation, was dismissed by the office of the Attorney General. Her successor, John MacGregor, ended the investigation in 2004. Dowd stated that she did not know why she was dismissed. During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Crist's campaign manager said that she had resigned, amicably, over a difference of opinion on her contact with the press. Henderson, citing $5,000 in campaign contributions from Pearlman companies to Crist received a year after the investigation was complete, argued that the investigation was dropped because of Pearlman's political connections.[18][19] A lawsuit stemming from the Ponzi scheme and investment scandal alleges that Crist and other state regulators failed to protect investors, and also cites campaign contributions.[20]

As Attorney General, he was noted for his position in the Terri Schiavo case, where he disagreed with governor Jeb Bush. Crist received criticism from both sides on this issue.[21]

Governor of Florida

Crist has received criticism for his fiscal approach, for his support of President Barack Obama's fiscal policies, and for his official schedule.[22][23][24][25]

Crist supported capital punishment[26] and gun rights. In 2008 he signed a provision that prevents employers from prohibiting employees' bringing firearms to the workplace, as long as the weapons are secure and individuals maintain a concealed carry license.[27][28]

His position on abortion issues is not clear-cut.[29] In 1998 Crist ran for Senate as a pro-choice candidate,[29] and has stated that he opposes overturning Roe vs. Wade.[29][30] Crist has said that he opposes a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can undergo an abortion.[29] In the 2010 Senate campaign, Crist first presented himself a pro-life Republican[31] but after he lost the Republican nomination and became an unaffiliated candidate, had all pro-life statements removed from his website.[32] On June 11, 2010 Crist vetoed a bill which would have removed taxpayer funding for abortion,[33] as well as require a woman to have an ultrasound before having an abortion.[34]

Crist supported efforts to ban same-sex marriage in Florida, and supported the current ban on adoption by homosexual prospective parents – saying that a "traditional family provides the best environment for children."[35][36] His position led gay rights groups to protest the passage of the Florida Amendment 2 (now Article 1 Section 27 of the Florida Constitution) ban on same-sex marriage during his wedding in 2008.[37][38] He shifted in June 2010, when he stated that he no longer supported Florida's ban on same-sex adoption: "A better way and approach would be to let judges make that decision on a case-by-case basis."[39]

On other issues, Crist differs from other Republicans, particularly on environmental policy, an important issue in Florida. He announced plans to sign executive orders to impose strict air pollution standards in the state, with aims to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of the 1990 levels, by 2050 .[40] In his gubernatorial campaign, Crist opposed offshore oil drilling. Crist altered that position in June 2008, when oil reached peak prices, saying "I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering, and my heart bleeds for them." [41][42]

As a strong environmental advocate, Crist, in June 2008, publicly proposed the State of Florida purchase 187,000 acres (760 km2) from the United States Sugar Corporation for $1.2 billion. The U.S. Sugar purchase would remove roughly 187,000 acres of sugar farming for restoration efforts. In front of a plethora of supporters in Palm Beach County, Crist described the deal "as monumental as our nation's first national park."[43] Shortly after the original agreement, the national economy collapsed causing the U.S. Sugar purchase to be downsized. After a number of months debating a condensed transaction, the agreement, which still faces legal and financing challenges, would give the state 73,000 acres (300 km2) of sugar and citrus plantations for Everglades restoration projects.[44][45][46]

Crist was the first Republican governor to accept the state's

Role in the 2008 presidential election

Senator John McCain played a major role in Crist's 2006 campaign for governor, endorsing Crist and traveling the state to campaign with him. The day before the general election, Crist held a campaign event with McCain in Jacksonville. Later, when the Republican Presidential primary debates were held in St. Petersburg, Crist embraced McCain and offered a tepid welcome to the other presidential candidates. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had campaigned for Crist during the gubernatorial election, had sought his endorsement to support a campaign strategy that relied on winning the Florida primary.[54][55][56][57]

In May 2007, Crist signed a bill moving the date of Florida's presidential primary to January 29, 2008. Such adjustments of state primary dates – intended to increase the prominence of an individual state's role in the nominating process of the major political process and known as front-loading – are a violation of the primary rules of both major parties. The change prompted the Democratic National Committee to strip Florida (and Michigan, which made a similar change) of their superdelegates and 50 percent of their regular delegates to the Democratic nominating convention, and the Republican National Committee said it would strip 50% of all of the state's delegates.[58] Crist joined Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm in demanding that their states' delegates be seated. Ultimately, the Democratic National Committee decided to seat all Florida and Michigan delegates while granting each delegate a half vote, and the Republican National Committee came to a similar conclusion.[59][60][61][62]

On January 26, 2008, Crist endorsed McCain in the Republican primary race, saying, "He's a great friend and will do a great job for the United States."[63] McCain later won the primary by five percentage points.[64]

On October 28, 2008 Crist extended early voting hours of operation and declared that a "state of emergency exists" due to record voter turnout and resultant hours-long waits at locations throughout the state.[65][66]

On October 29 and October 31, 2008, Crist appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe in which he told former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough that the race was tightening in Florida.[67][68]

2010 Senate campaign

Crist announced May 12, 2009 that he would not run for re-election as Governor in 2010, making him the first Florida governor not to run for reelection since 1964.[69] Instead, he ran for the US Senate, and his main Republican opponent was former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio,[70][71] in addition to Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek.[72]

Crist was considered the front runner in the Republican primary, but eventually trailed Rubio by 20 points in polls.[73][74]

As a result, Crist announced his intent to run as an unaffiliated candidate in the 2010 senate election, while at the same time, according to a press release from his campaign, he would remain a registered Republican.[75] Crist officially changed his registration status to "non party affiliated" on May 13, 2010. After initially signaling that Crist might return former campaign donors' contributions, Crist's campaign later indicated that it will not do so.[76] Crist eventually lost the primary to Marco Rubio. He then lost the general election, receiving 30% of the vote, compared to 49% for Rubio and 20% for the Democratic Party candidate Meek.

In April 2011, as part of a settlement of a copyright lawsuit brought by musician David Byrne, Crist apologized for his Senate campaign's use of Byrne's song Road to Nowhere without permission.[77]

Post-gubernatorial career

On January 7, 2011, it was announced that Crist would join personal-injury law firm Morgan and Morgan in Tampa.[78] In addition, it was confirmed that he would be a part-time instructor at Stetson University College of Law.[78]

On August 26, 2012, Crist endorsed Barack Obama for re-election as president over the candidate of his former party, Mitt Romney.[79] Crist was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

On December 7, 2012, Crist announced via Twitter that he had joined the Democratic Party.[2]

2014 gubernatorial election

On October 25, 2013, Crist released a video on his website which suggested he would run in the Florida gubernatorial election, 2014.[80] The next day, Crist told the Tampa Bay Times that he would announce his plans on November 4 in St. Petersburg, his hometown.[81] On November 1, 2013, Crist filed paperwork to run for governor as a Democrat.[82]

Political positions

Future of the Republican Party

On November 12–14, 2008, Crist hosted the Republican Governors Association (RGA) annual meeting in Miami. Held the week after the Democratic Party victories in the 2008 election,[83] there was speculation about the tone of the Republican Governors meeting. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, recently defeated 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, was a featured participant and speaker.

Crist's speech at the RGA conference, "Listen to the Voters and Serve" included his sentiments on how the GOP should evolve:
This party can no longer hope to reach Hispanics, African Americans and other minority groups – we need to just do it. Embracing cultures and lifestyles will make us a better party and better leaders. This desire for inclusiveness is near and dear to my heart... Last week, the American people made a choice and this week, if we choose to call ourselves leaders, if we truly endeavor to serve with a servant's heart for the people who count on us, then we too must work together, listen to one another and learn from the leaders who made the kind of history the American people deserve.[84]

Crist held a joint interview with Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and they discussed the split in the Republican Party over where to direct the party's next efforts to gain more voters.[85]

Same-sex marriage

On May 9, 2013, Crist announced that he supports same-sex marriage; “I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here.”[86] In both 2006 and 2008, Crist announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment although by 2010, he had endorsed adoption rights for gay couples.[86][87]

Personal life

In July 1979, Crist married Amanda Morrow; they divorced less than a year later.[88] Crist became engaged to Carole Rome on July 3, 2008 after 9 months of dating, and was married[89] on December 12 of that year at the First Methodist Church of St. Petersburg, where Crist is a member.[90]


External links

Florida portal
  • Charlie Crist official campaign site
  • National Governors Association
  • Project Vote Smart
  • On the Issues
  • Financial information at the National Institute for Money
  • C-SPAN programs
  • Federal Election Commission
  • The New York Times
  • YouTube
  • WEDU, April 2007, 30-minute interview
  • Jennifer Santiago One on One Interview with Crist and Tour of Governor's Mansion, September 10, 2007
  • Miami Herald, November 17, 2008
Party political offices
Preceded by
James Grant
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Florida
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Mel Martinez
Preceded by
David Bludworth
Republican nominee for Attorney General of Florida
Succeeded by
Bill McCollum
Preceded by
Jeb Bush
Republican nominee for Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Rick Scott
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Gallagher
Education Commissioner of Florida
Succeeded by
Jim Horne
Preceded by
Jeb Bush
Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Rick Scott
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Doran
Attorney General of Florida
Succeeded by
Bill McCollum


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