Déjà Charlie All Over Again - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Déjà Charlie All Over Again
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Political perennial Charlie Crist is at it again. He announced Tuesday that he will run for the Florida congressional seat now held by Republican David Jolly, who will run for the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio is relinquishing to run for president.

For those who’ve lost track, which would be easy to do, Crist is seeking the Florida 13 seat as a Democrat. This is Crist’s latest, though perhaps not his final, party affiliation in a career in which he has the distinction of having lost statewide elections as a Republican (U.S. Senate 1998), an independent (U.S. Senate 2010), and as a Democrat (Florida governorship 2014). Searching for something positive to say about Florida’s political chameleon, I can do no better than to say that Crist is not easily discouraged.

It doesn’t matter much which party label, or absence of label, Crist hangs on himself. He has an unbroken record of no achievement in any of the state and local political offices he has held since first being elected to the Florida Senate from a St. Petersburg district in 1992 (a complete list of these offices supplied on request).

Crist changes his positions on the major issues of the day as often as he changes his suits, but then never follows up on any of them. He’s too busy seeking the next office. When Crist was Florida’s governor (at least on paper) from 2007 to 2011, there were more sightings of Elvis in Tallahassee than there were of Crist at work in the governor’s office. He keeps hours bankers would envy. Most of his energy for the first half of his term as governor was spent on the delusion that he would be on the national Republican ticket in 2008 as vice president (I’m not making this up), the second half on seeking a U.S. Senate seat. 

But just because Crist is a political cipher, and voters in one major party finally figured him out and gave him his walking papers, is no reason why Crist may not be competitive in this congressional race. For reasons that are unclear, Crist remains popular in his home district. This can only be based on Crist’s sunny disposition, his only political asset. Crist won the district narrowly in 2014 when he ran for governor against incumbent Republican Rick Scott, and Barack Obama won the district narrowly both in 2008 and 2012.

The lines of the district will be somewhat different, and more congenial to Democrats, in 2016 after Floridians passed two “fair districting” constitutional amendment in 2014. The new lines, when Florida courts finally sort them out, will likely be the lines drawn up by the League of Women Voters. The courts rejected the lines drawn by the Republican Florida Legislature in favor of those of the League’s. For those confused about what the word “reform” means in the current political lexicon, it means that when the conservative party wins, a liberal outfit gets to draw the congressional lines.

Crist has only one opponent in the Democratic race for the nomination. Attorney Eric Lynn, like Crist a St. Petersburg native and a career politician, returned to St. Petersburg from Washington last October after serving as a staffer with Democrat South Florida Congressman Peter Deutch. He later worked in the Department of Defense and was part of Obama’s last campaign as a Middle East policy advisor (this could not have been too demanding, as Obama appears to have no Middle East policy beyond waiting to see if ISIS will go away). Completing Lynn’s Washington pedigree, he has a law degree from Georgetown.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican and a lawyer, may be more of an inconvenience to Crist than the relatively unknown Lynn. Baker was popular during his two terms as mayor (2001 to 2010), and was re-elected with 70 percent of the vote. He even got a majority of black votes. The mayoral races were non-partisan and Baker will have to wear his R in this one. But his crossover appeal is undeniable, and he could make it a race.

If, as is likely, the race comes down to Baker and Crist, it’s no mystery what Crist will do. He’ll smile a lot and blow sunshine up everybody’s skirts while avoiding substance as much as possible. It remains to be seen what kind of campaign Baker would run. He is a conservative in the way these things are measured in swing districts, but hardly of the movement variety.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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