Crist’s decisive early lead in the race for the Democratic nomination spans all races, gender, age groups, and media markets. He continues to challenge Governor Ron DeSantis on mimicking dangerous Trump policies.
BY DELIA GOMES, Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — Congressman Charlie Crist said the many Floridians arrested (47) during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege warrants an investigation by a bipartisan group. Florida has the dubious distinction of tying Texas for the most arrests in the riot to undermine the certification of Joe Biden as president.
Joined by State Attorney Andrew Warren, Crist called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to assemble a bipartisan panel to examine Florida’s link to the violent insurrection that overwhelmed capitol police. The incident resulted in several deaths and numerous injuries to capitol police. Crist, a Democrat running for governor, said, “This is stunning, and for our public safety, we need to understand why.”
Florida had the highest number of extremist arrests, those being members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And it also led the nation with Florida participants committing nine assaults on law enforcement officers. Crist added, “We need to know what to do to keep our state and democracy safe from these extremists.”
DeSantis will not confirm the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, nor will he condemn the capitol insurrection. But after the 2020 summer of protests following the death of George Floyd, the polarizing governor made clear that his priority was to crack down on demonstrations involving groups like Black Lives Matter and other civil rights advocates. Including that law, this year, DeSantis signed a flurry of what civil rights organizations call suppressive laws. Once again, it made Florida the poster child for the Trump agenda with the highest number of new constitutionally challenged statutes.
As for Crist’s gubernatorial bid, he is a popular political figure. The former governor, now congressman, holds a commanding two-to-one lead over his closest competitor for the Democratic nomination. According to StPetePolls.org, Crist’s support is highest among Black voters at 63 percent, followed by Whites at 52 percent, Asian Pacific Islanders at 51 percent, and Hispanics at 48 percent.
More stunning is Crist’s complete dominance among men, women, all age groups, and in all 10 media markets where he is solid in the crucial I-4 corridor and South Florida regions. In addition to the popularity quotient, nearly 70 percent of Democratic voters polled believe Crist can beat DeSantis. Believability is critical to voter turnout.
Crist’s empathy and compassion could be part of the attraction. In February, he called for an investigation of the DeSantis alleged pay-to-play distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to groups and regions contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Florida Republican Party or his campaign.
60 Minutes did an extensive report that also revealed that Blacks in Florida were vaccinated at a much lower rate than their wealthy neighbors. To that, DeSantis responded, “These are smear merchants. Lies built on lies.”
One thing is true, Florida politics is no place for novices. And there’s no doubt the 2022 race for the governor’s mansion could be the fiercest in a long time.