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Charlie Crist resigning House seat after winning gubernatorial primary

Republican-turned-Democrat’s district redrawn to favor GOP

Florida Rep. Charlie Crist is resigning after winning the Democratic nomination for governor, a post he previously held as a Republican.
Florida Rep. Charlie Crist is resigning after winning the Democratic nomination for governor, a post he previously held as a Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Charlie Crist is resigning his House seat to focus on running for governor of Florida, a post the Democrat previously held as a Republican.

Crist said in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday that his resignation would be effective at the end of the day. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent my childhood home of Pinellas County, Florida,” he said. “During my time in Congress, I have made a point to treat all people with respect, even if we may disagree, while also standing up for my constituents and being their voice in Washington.” 

Crist is challenging GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. He has criticized DeSantis over several issues, accusing him of mishandling the pandemic response and property insurance.

Crist, 66, won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on Aug. 23, defeating Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, 60 percent to 35 percent. Democrat Eric Lynn is facing Republican Anna Paulina Luna in a race for his redrawn 13th District seat, which Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as Likely Republican

Now in his third House term, Crist has been a centrist voice known to work across the aisle and urge civility in an increasingly polarized Congress. So far this year, he’s voted with fellow Democrats on questions that split the parties 94 percent of the time, compared with 98 percent for the average Democrat, according to CQ Vote Watch.   

Critics had called Crist out in recent months for his use of a pandemic-driven rule allowing members to vote by proxy instead of in person, as he made his gubernatorial run. 

In Congress, Crist has been outspoken about the impact of climate change and helped introduce legislation providing loans for flood mitigation projects and solar tax credits.  

He’s been an advocate for social justice causes and helped get a provision included in the House rules for this Congress that requires committees to consider how to address inequities on the basis of factors like race, religion and sexual orientation.

He has been a member of the Appropriations Committee, helping to get millions in the fiscal 2020 spending bill to address health hazards like mold in military housing, including sites in Florida.

Earmarks he secured in fiscal 2022 spending bills included $2 million for the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science for flood prediction and mitigation, and $1.5 million for improvements, including expanded amphitheater seating, in Clearwater’s waterfront park.

Crist’s relationship with the GOP was fractured in 2009, during his time as a Republican governor, after he embraced President Barack Obama at a rally celebrating federal funding for stimulus projects. 

The move generated Republican backlash, and Crist ultimately began distancing himself from the party after a failed bid for Senate the following year. He was on the general election ballot as an independent in 2010, after losing the GOP primary to Sen. Marco Rubio, who eventually won the seat. 

Crist endorsed Obama for reelection in 2012, and later that year officially announced his switch to the Democratic Party.

Before his split with the GOP, Crist was elected Florida attorney general in 2002, becoming the state’s first elected Republican attorney general. In that post, he opposed the action of then-President George W. Bush, who sought to require the insertion of a feeding tube in an unconscious Florida woman, Terri Schiavo.

As a member of Congress, Crist has been involved in helping to draft legislation that would overhaul rules regarding conservatorships, popularized in high-profile cases like that of pop star Britney Spears.

He was elected to be the state’s governor as a Republican in 2006, getting an important endorsement from Arizona Sen. John McCain, who subsequently got Crist’s endorsement before the 2008 Florida presidential primary. 

Crist ran for governor again in 2014 as a Democrat but lost in a tight race to now-GOP Sen. Rick Scott.

Kate Ackley contributed to this report.

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