(The Center Square) – Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday offered some campaign advice to Democrats seeking to unseat him in the 2022 gubernatorial race.
“I implore them – from my political interest – run on closing schools, run on locking people down, run on closing businesses,” he said. “I would love to have that debate, because I can tell you this, we have saved people’s livelihoods.”
The governor’s comments came in response to U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s Tuesday morning announcement that he will be among candidates who will vie for the Democratic nomination to challenge DeSantis.
State Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat, is expected to run for governor and U.S. Rep. Val Demings is pondering doing so as well.
Crist, elected governor in 2006 as a Republican, officially kicked off his 2022 gubernatorial campaign in a St. Petersburg news conference and a video posted on Twitter that criticized DeSantis’ for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When COVID took hold in Florida, I took action in Congress,” Crist says in the video. “But today, Florida has a governor that’s only focused on his future, not yours. While COVID took the lives of 35,000 Floridians, DeSantis attacked doctors and scientists.”
Speaking on CBS Local in Miami, Crist said he was disappointed in DeSantis’ vaccine “non-rollout, noting he’s called for a federal investigation into alleged preferential treatment DeSantis gave Publix in a “pay-to-play” scheme to distribute COVID-19 vaccines after the state’s largest grocery chain donated $100,000 to his reelection campaign.
The claim has been widely repudiated not only by DeSantis and Publix, but by state and local officials from both parties. Nevertheless, Crist calls for further investigations into the matter in his video while referencing DeSantis’ status as a GOP 2024 presidential frontrunner.
“Every step of the way, this governor has been more focused on his personal political fortune than the struggle of everyday Floridians,” Crist said. “That’s just not right. Just like our former president, he always takes credit but never takes responsibility.”
Tuesday’s announcement will mark Crist’s third run for governor. After not seeking reelection in 2010, Crist left the Republican Party and unsuccessfully ran as an independent against U.S. Sen Marco Rubio in 2012.
Crist ran for governor again in 2014, this time as a Democrat, losing to now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. He won his Pinellas County congressional seat in 2016 and was reelected to a third term in November.
“Which party is he going to run under? Do we know for sure?” DeSantis wondered, before noting there’s really no doubt what party Crist is in.
“He could probably give it a run for the Green Party in San Francisco, liberal Green Party,” he said.
The governor said Crist has been running for elected offices since the 1990s and is a prototypical career politician.
“Any time there’s an open office somewhere,” DeSantis quipped, “you can bet someone like a Crist is probably going to be slithering around for it.”
Fried has not formally launched her campaign but was clear Tuesday in Tallahassee that she is running and deserves to be the candidate chosen to unseat DeSantis.
“As the only statewide elected Democrat, it makes absolute sense for me to be running for governor,’’ she told reporters.
Demings also posted a Twitter video Tuesday that highlighted her career as Orlando police chief, impeachment manager in Congress and a shortlisted vice-presidential pick for President Biden under the caption, “Ready for the moment.”