It’s official: Former Gov. Charlie Crist will run for Congress in a St. Petersburg seat in what’s expected to become a Democratic-leaning district.
"Public service is in my heart," Crist said at a recreation center surrounded by several dozen supporters at his Oct. 20 announcement.
Crist will run in the 13th congressional district, a seat being redrawn amid a contentious redistricting battle. Since it appears that the district will end up being more friendly to a Democrat, the seat’s current holder -- David Jolly -- announced in July that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio instead.
In the Democratic primary, Crist is facing Eric Lynn, a former Obama administration official who has raised about $550,000. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican, is also considering a bid.
Crist was governor from 2007 to 2011, following years as a state senator, education commissioner and attorney general. He lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1998.
In 2010, as he was struggling in his second U.S. Senate bid and running against Rubio, Crist left the Republican Party and became an independent; he went on to lose the general election. Then, he switched parties again for the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, registering as a Democrat in what proved to be an unsuccessful bid to unseat GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
The Crist chronicles
With such a long career in Florida politics, Crist has an extensive PolitiFact scorecard:
Crist has become particularly well known (and often criticized) for changing his stances on key issues, and in some cases even changing them back. We’ve put him on our Flip-O-Meter several times over the years. Here are our rulings on some of his positions:
On support for the Affordable Care Act: While Crist initially supported repealing the law as governor, his opinions changed over his subsequent campaigns. For this, he earned a Full Flop.
On support for same-sex marriage: After voting for a ban of same-sex marriage in his first gubernatorial campaign, Crist later moved to support same-sex marriage. We rated this a Full Flop.
On adoption by gay couples: During his 2006 race for governor as a Republican, Crist repeatedly supported the state’s ban on gay parents adopting, but that changed once he became an Independent. By the time he was a Democrat, he fully supported adoption -- another a Full Flop.
On oil drilling off Florida’s coast: Crist has been against drilling, although he did wobble in 2008 by suggesting it could be discussed. Ultimately he went back to his original position, so we rated this No Flip.
On the economic stimulus: Crist initially supported the stimulus when it was passed in 2009, though he said on CNN that year "I didn't endorse" the federal stimulus bill, which we rated Pants on Fire. He softened his support of it in 2010 in an attempt to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate but later in the race he supported it. We called that a Half Flip.
There also have been dozens of statements by and about Crist. Here’s a selection of some of the ones we rated on the Truth-O-Meter:
The Donald Trump connection
During the first GOP debate, Rubio said that Trump "supported Charlie Crist." During the 2010 Senate race in Florida, Trump gave Crist $4,800. Trump also hosted two fundraisers for Crist that year, and Crist met with Trump to huddle about a prospective campaign as early as 2005. The only caveat, in the context of an exchange about Trump’s imperfect party loyalty, is that Crist was a Republican at the time. We rated this claim Mostly True.
The recession and economic turnaround
Crist, who governed during the recession and the start of the recovery, said during his 2014 campaign that if he hadn’t accepted stimulus dollars, it "would have led to the firing of 20,000 teachers."
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number of teachers who would have been laid off statewide, since districts would have had discretion over what would be cut from their budgets. But the Education Department did identify 19,166 full-time-equivalent jobs -- not just teachers -- who would have been affected by the stimulus money. We rated the statement Mostly True.
Meanwhile, although the Great Recession was in full swing during Crist’s term, he took credit for overseeing the start of Florida’s recovery. He told CNN’s Candy Crowley the "turnaround started at the end of my term."
We found that during Crist’s last year in office, Florida’s economy experienced notable gains in personal income and industrial production, and more marginal improvements in the unemployment rate and in payroll employment. But GDP didn’t grow again until Scott took office.
Economists said he deserved some credit for the economic turnaround because he accepted federal stimulus dollars, but they added that a lot of the recovery was beyond the control of any single state, or any single politician. We rated Crist’s statement Half True.
In 2014, Crist campaigned in favor of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. During a debate, he said that if Florida expanded Medicaid, "some studies indicate it would create about 120,000 jobs."
A Florida Hospital Association study did predict that many, but that group had a dog in the fight, supporting the expansion. Another study put the figure as low as 10,000. Crist cherry-picked the analysis with the highest statistic and glossed over the fact that it was done for a pro-expansion group. We found no solid consensus on how many jobs would come to Florida. We rated Crist’s statement Half True.
Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog, "Former St. Pete mayor Rick Baker may take on Charlie Crist for Congress," Oct. 19, 2015
Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog, "David Jolly crashes Charlie Crist’s campaign kickoff," Oct. 20, 2015