Charlie Crist: Decision to run as an independent says "more about our nation and state than me" (video and audio)

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Crist admitted what political journalists have written in the past week — that it would have been easier for him to simply run for re-election as governor, where he has been relatively popular over his 3 1/2 years in office. "But for me it's never been about what's easy.  It's about doing what's right for the people first."

Although on television it may have looked like a frenzied crowd, the fact of the matter is that it had to be a disappointment for Team Crist that there weren't more people in attendance.  Seemingly half of those at Straub Park were local and national political reporters covering the event live.

Among the supporters standing behind Crist were several schoolteachers, who told CL beforehand that they were there to show support for the governor for vetoing the controversial SB 6 teacher reform bill earlier this month.  But perhaps tellingly, some of those teachers, lifelong Democrats, said they were not willing to say who they would vote for come November.

Brandt Robinson was one instructor who showed up with a sign supporting the governor, but said he would not comment on who he would vote for in November.

One prominent Crist supporter in Straub Park was Deveron Gibbons, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year in St. Pete. Gibbons announced earlier Thursday that in solidarity with Crist, he was leaving the GOP and becoming an independent.   He said that the term 'moderate' might be a bad word now in the Republican Party, but "it doesn't mean it's a bad thing."

Marco Rubio wasn't charitable upon hearing that he now will have no competition until after the August 24th primary, saying in a press release:

Governor Crist still doesn’t get it; this race is not about conservative vs. moderate, Republican vs. Democrat or, now, Republican vs. Democrat vs. Non-Party Affiliated.  This election’s outcome was never going to hinge on whether he chose to run as a Republican or not.  This race is a referendum between the limited government, free market American identity I will fight to preserve versus the costly and intrusive big government agenda that both Governor Crist and Congressman Meek support.  This race is not about doing whatever it takes to win in November.

Earlier in the day, the entire Florida Democratic Congressional delegation issued a press release standing by their man, Kendrick Meek, who now has a better chance than he did 24 hours earlier of winning the Senate seat.

The governor wrapped up his speech by saying, "I need you more than ever." Truer words haven't been spoken in politics.  Bereft of the institutional advantages of running with a major political party, Charlie Crist's gamble could possibly end his career in politics.  But to be the next U.S. Senator from Florida, it's the only move he could make.

(photo by Rebecca Wainwright)

Charlie Crist Thursday afternoon officially announced that he is leaving the Republican race for U.S. Senate, and we'll instead run as an independent against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek in the fall.

Speaking for a relatively short seven minutes in front of friends and family at Straub Park and an estimated crowd of around 250 in his hometown of St. Petersburg, the governor confirmed what has been the source of speculation in political circles throughout Florida and the nation when he said that his decision to leave the GOP "says more about our nation and our state, than it does about me."

(You can hear Crist's speech here - it begins about seven minutes into the sound after introductions by Crist's sister and former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and another official).


the report here.

Discussing his 15 years plus in Florida public life, the governor said "unfortunately, our political system is broken."  Boasting his populist credentials, he said that he has never embraced ideas because they were Republican or Democratic, but because they were good for the people."

He said the public was "tired of the games and the name-calling and the politics of destruction, and they're tired of things not being done for them.  For you."

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