Charles Joseph Crist Jr. (/krɪst/; born July 24, 1956) is an American attorney and politician serving as the U.S. Representative from Florida's 13th congressional district since 2017. He previously served as the 44th Governor of Florida, from 2007 to 2011.
Crist began his political career as a Republican, serving in the Florida Senate from 1993 to 1999, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1998 when he challenged incumbent Bob Graham and then serving as Florida Education Commissioner from 2001 to 2003 and Florida Attorney General from 2003 to 2007, before being elected governor in 2006.
Crist decided not to run for re-election as governor in 2010, instead announcing on May 12, 2009 that he was running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Senator Mel Martinez. After initially leading in the race for the Republican nomination, he was overtaken in the polls by Marco Rubio, and in April 2010, Crist left the Republican Party and ran as an Independent. In the general election, he lost to Rubio in a three-way race, taking 30% of the vote to Rubio's 49% and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek's 20%. Crist's term as Florida Governor ended in January 2011.
On December 7, 2012, he joined the Democratic Party, having endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012. On November 1, 2013, he announced that he was running for governor in the 2014 election. However, he was defeated by incumbent Governor Rick Scott, losing by a 1% margin. In 2016 Crist was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Florida's 13th congressional district, defeating incumbent David Jolly by a margin of 52%-48%.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Florida's 13th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||David Jolly|
|44th Governor of Florida|
January 2, 2007 – January 4, 2011
|Preceded by||Jeb Bush|
|Succeeded by||Rick Scott|
|35th Attorney General of Florida|
January 7, 2003 – January 2, 2007
|Preceded by||Richard Doran|
|Succeeded by||Bill McCollum|
|21st Education Commissioner of Florida|
January 3, 2001 – January 7, 2003
|Preceded by||Tom Gallagher|
|Succeeded by||Jim Horne|
|Member of the Florida Senate|
from the 20th district
November 3, 1992 – November 3, 1998
|Preceded by||Constituency redistricted|
|Succeeded by||Jim Sebesta|
|Born||Charles Joseph Crist, Jr.|
July 24, 1956
Altoona, Pennsylvania, U.S
|Political party||Democratic (2012–present)|
|Republican (before 2010)|
|Spouse(s)||Amanda Morrow (1979–1980)|
Carole Rome (2008–2017)
|Education||Wake Forest University|
Florida State University (BA)
Samford University (JD)
Crist was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on July 24, 1956, to Charles Joseph Crist, Sr., an American physician of Greek Cypriot and Lebanese descent, and Nancy (née Lee), of Scots-Irish, Swiss, and Welsh descent. His family name is adapted from the original Greek name "Christodoulou."
In his childhood, Crist moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he attended Riviera Middle School, Shorecrest Preparatory School, and St. Petersburg High School, from which he graduated in 1974. He is the second of four children and has three sisters: Margaret Crist Wood, Elizabeth Crist Hyden, and Catherine Crist Kennedy. He attended Wake Forest University for two years. Crist earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State University, where he was elected vice president of the student body and became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He received his J.D. from Samford University Cumberland School of Law.
After graduating from the Cumberland School of Law in 1981, and having passed the bar on his third attempt, Crist was hired as general counsel to Minor League Baseball, which was headquartered in St. Petersburg. Drawn to politics, Crist was a candidate for public office for the first time in 1986, as a Republican, in the primary race for a state Senate seat in Pinellas County. After losing in a runoff, Crist joined his brother-in-law in private practice in St. Petersburg, but soon returned to politics as an aide in the successful 1988 United States Senate campaign of Connie Mack III, whom he has since described as his political mentor.
Crist was elected to a two-year term to the Florida Senate in 1992 from the 20th District, which encompassed parts of St. Petersburg and south Tampa. Crist defeated longtime incumbent Democratic State Senator Helen Gordon Davis of Tampa, 58.3 to 41.7%. Crist was able to unseat Gordon Davis following the 1992 decennial redistricting process, which significantly reconfigured the districts in the Tampa Bay area. His victory was credited with helping to end the 128-year control of the Florida Senate by the Democratic Party, as the Republicans netted three Senate seats in 1992, resulting in a 20-20 tie between the two parties.
He was known as a law-and-order senator, sponsoring legislation requiring inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole. He supported teacher salary increases, charter schools, and a specialty license plate for Everglades conservation. With Crist as chairman, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee investigated actions of then-governor Lawton Chiles amid allegations that Chiles's campaign had made "scare calls" to senior citizens days before the 1994 gubernatorial election. Chiles testified before the committee and admitted that his campaign had made the calls.
Crist was reelected to the Senate in 1994 to a four-year term, defeating Democrat Dana Lynn Maley with 63.3% of the vote.
Crist gained recognition in 1998 as the Republican challenger to the incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Graham. He lost to Graham by 26 percentage points. He was elected Education Commissioner of Florida in 2000 – a position he held until it became an appointive office in 2003, as the result of a 1998 constitutional amendment.
Crist left his position after he was elected attorney general.
In 2002 Crist was elected as the Attorney General in Florida. His candidacy was supported by the host of America's Most Wanted, John Walsh. Walsh and other supporters cited his work with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Crist was praised by civil rights and consumer groups for expanding the powers of the Attorney General during his time in office. These powers enabled him and future Attorneys General to have greater powers when prosecuting in civil rights and fraud cases. He also worked at combating spam e-mail and froze utility rates. He sought to end telecom deception and protect the environment.
Having won the 2006 election, Crist was inaugurated as Governor of Florida on January 2, 2007. He was involved in the state's purchase of sugar plantations. He also worked on education, with Florida rising into the top 10 states for K12 education under his control.
Crist supported President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a stimulus package in response to the Great Recession. Fellow Republicans were angered by Crist's support for the stimulus.
In 2008, he signed a provision that prevents employers from prohibiting employees' bringing firearms to the workplace, as long as the weapons are secure and individuals maintain a concealed carry license.
Crist's stance on abortion has been unclear at times. In 1995, while in Florida Senate, Crist joined with two Democrats in the Senate Health Care Committee in voting against a proposal for a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion, resulting in a 3-3 tie vote and the defeat of the bill. In 1998, while running for the U.S. Senate, Crist wrote in a Tampa Bay Times questionnaire that "I believe that a woman has the right to choose, but would prefer only after careful consideration and consultation with her family, her physician and her clergy; not her government." Crist said in a debate that year that he did not support a constitutional amendment banning abortion. In 2006, while running for governor, Crist said that he did not support overturning Roe v. Wade and opposed a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion.
In 2010, while running for the U.S. Senate again, Crist said he would "fight for pro-life legislative efforts" and described himself as "pro-life." By March 2010, however, as rumors swirled that he would leave the Republican Party and become an independent, Crist reiterated that he did not support overturning Roe v. Wade and told a Christian Family Coalition group that "We ought to instead of change laws, change hearts."
In June 2010, after leaving the Republican Party and becoming an independent, Crist removed anti-abortion language from his website. Shortly thereafter, Crist vetoed a bill to require women seeking abortions to pay for and receive an ultrasound, calling the measure "punitive" and "almost mean-spirited." The bill also included language barring abortion coverage "under a contract toward which any tax credit or cost-sharing credit is applied." Legislative Republicans and anti-abortion groups said that his language was aimed at preventing "what they considered the possibility of federal funding being used for abortion in Florida," while abortion rights groups said that the broadly written provision would have resulted "in hundreds of thousands of women losing health care coverage that they currently have." The bill vetoed by Crist also included some provisions "intended to thwart" the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care reform legislation championed by President Obama.
In 2006, as a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions was headed to the ballot in Florida, Crist said that such an amendment was unnecessary because state law already barred same-sex marriages. During the Republican primary, however, Crist went on to sign the petition for the amendment in September 2005 at the request of the Christian Coalition. Crist said in campaign materials at the time that he supported "traditional marriage." In 2008, Crist said that he voted for the Florida amendment, which passed.
In a debate and a radio talk show appearance in 2006, Crist indicated support for civil unions. In 2010, after switching to become an independent during the U.S. Senate race, Crist declared his support for civil unions encompassing "the full range of legal protections" including "access to a loved one in the hospital, inheritance rights, the fundamental things people need to take care of their families." It is unclear whether such civil unions would have been prohibited by the 2008 state constitutional amendment which Crist supported.
As governor, Crist deemphasized the marriage issue, saying in a CNN appearance in late 2007 that "It's not an issue that moves me. I'm just a live and let live kind of guy" and telling the Orlando Sentinel in 2008 that the issue was not "top tier" for him.
Crist initially supported Florida's ban on same-sex adoption, which had been in place since 1977. Crist publicly expressed support for the ban from the time he was attorney general in 2006 to his early campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010, even after some state legislators proposed dropping the ban in 2007 and a Miami-Dade judge struck down the ban as unconstitutional in 2008. Crist expressed support for the ban as late as February 2010.
By June 2010, however, Crist expressed openness to changing Florida law to allow same-sex adoption, saying a better approach "would be to let judges make that decision on a case-by-case basis."
In September 2010, Crist said that he has had an "appropriate evolution" on gay rights and was considering dropping the state's appeal of the court ruling striking down Florida's ban on gay adoption. Days later, after an appeals court struck down the ban, Crist hailed the ruling "a very good day for Florida" and "a great day for children" and announced that the state would no longer seek to enforce the ban. In a Senate candidates' debate the next month, Crist attributed his shift in positions to "the convergence of life experience and wisdom," saying that he had become more tolerant and become less judgmental with age.
In January 2014, Crist apologized for his support for the 2008 same-sex marriage ban and for the same-sex adoption ban, telling an Orlando LGBT publication that "I'm sorry I did that. It was a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me."
As an environmental advocate, Crist, in June 2008, proposed the State of Florida buy 187,000 acres (760 km2) from the United States Sugar Corporation for $1.2 billion. The purchase would remove about 187,000 acres of sugar farming for restoration efforts. In front of supporters in Palm Beach County, Crist described the deal "as monumental as our nation's first national park." Economic changes forced the purchase to be reduced to 73,000 acres (300 km2) of sugar and citrus plantations for Everglades restoration projects.
He announced plans to sign executive orders to impose strict air pollution standards in the state, with aims to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of the 1990 levels, by 2050 . In his gubernatorial campaign, Crist opposed offshore oil drilling. Crist altered that position in June 2008, when oil reached peak prices, saying "I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering, and my heart bleeds for them."
Crist endorsed legislation requiring paper records of all ballots cast in an election, after claims that votes were undercounted in black communities by computerized voting machines. He supported a large tax cut which was to total $25 billion over a 5-year period. The tax cut was aimed at property tax relief.
In April 2010, Crist vetoed an education bill that would have linked teacher pay to test scores, a piece of legislation strongly supported by conservatives.
He supported increased regulation of the insurance industry, including property insurance rates (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) and health insurance. The Citizen's Property Insurance Corp and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund have been described as risky and underfunded. Standing next to former football star Dan Marino (whose son, Michael, is autistic and who inspired the Dan Marino Foundation), Crist signed a law expanding health coverage statewide for autism disorders and he has also signed legislation expanding low-income coverage and creating public and private insurance options in the state.
Senator John McCain endorsed Crist's 2006 campaign for governor, traveling the state to campaign with him. The day before the general election, Crist held a campaign event with McCain in Jacksonville. Later, when the Republican Presidential primary debates were held in St. Petersburg, Crist embraced McCain. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had also campaigned for Crist during the gubernatorial election, had sought his endorsement.
In May 2007, Crist signed a bill moving the date of Florida's presidential primary to January 29, 2008, contrary to national political party rules. Crist joined Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm in asking that their states' delegates be seated. Both national conventions ended up seating all delegates, but with only a half vote each for the sanctioned states.
On October 28, 2008 Crist extended early voting hours of operation and declared that a "state of emergency exists" due to record voter turnout and resultant hours-long waits at locations throughout the state.
On November 12–14, 2008, Crist hosted the Republican Governors Association (RGA) annual meeting in Miami. Held the week after the Democratic Party victories in the 2008 election, there was speculation about the tone of the Republican Governors meeting. Then Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the defeated 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, was a featured participant and speaker.
Crist's speech at the RGA conference, "Listen to the Voters and Serve" included his sentiments on how the GOP should evolve:
This party can no longer hope to reach Hispanics, African Americans and other minority groups – we need to just do it. Embracing cultures and lifestyles will make us a better party and better leaders. This desire for inclusiveness is near and dear to my heart ... Last week, the American people made a choice and this week, if we choose to call ourselves leaders, if we truly endeavor to serve with a servant's heart for the people who count on us, then we too must work together, listen to one another and learn from the leaders who made the kind of history the American people deserve.
Crist announced May 12, 2009, that he would not run for re-election as governor in 2010, making him the first Florida governor not to run for reelection since 1964. Instead, he ran for the US Senate, and his main Republican opponent was former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, in addition to Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek.
Crist announced his intent to run as an unaffiliated candidate in the 2010 senate election, while at the same time, according to a press release from his campaign, he remained a registered Republican. Crist officially changed his registration status to "non party affiliated" on May 13, 2010. Crist did not return campaign contributions made to him while a Republican. Crist withdrew from the Republican primary after trailing Marco Rubio in pre-primary polling, and then lost the general election, receiving 29.7% of the vote, compared to 48.9% for Rubio and 20.2% for the Democratic Party candidate Meek.
In April 2011, as part of a settlement of a copyright lawsuit brought by musician David Byrne, Crist apologized for his Senate campaign's use of Byrne's song "Road to Nowhere" without permission.
By the spring of 2015 there was media speculation Crist would seek the Democratic nomination for Florida's 2016 senate race. This would have marked his third run for the senate seat (he lost in 1998 and 2010). However, in March 2015 Crist stated he would not seek the nomination. That same month he endorsed U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy's Senate candidacy.
In January 2011, Crist joined the Tampa office of national personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan, after expressing an interest in returning to the legal field during his final week in office as governor of Florida. Crist worked primarily in the firm's class action sector as a complex litigation attorney, serving as a "rainmaker" for the firm. In November 2016, after almost six years with the firm, he was elected to serve Florida's 13th District. In February 2018, Brad Slager of Sunshine State News cited evidence that Morgan & Morgan was "attempting to purge all evidence" of its relationship with Crist now that he was a "rookie congressman" with "little-to-no power."
In 2013, Crist performed paid consulting work for Coastal Construction, a Miami-based construction firm owned by Crist's longtime friend Tom Murphy, who is the father of former U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy.
In August 2012, Crist endorsed President Barack Obama in his campaign for re-election over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, saying that the Republican Party "pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people." Crist was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, saying "I didn't leave the Republican Party; it left me."
On December 7, 2012, Crist announced via Twitter that he had joined the Democratic Party. In his 2014 book The Party's Over, Crist recounted his journey from one party to the other. He claimed that his career in the Republican Party was destroyed by a hug between him and President Barack Obama at a Fort Myers town hall on February 10, 2009. "It was the kind of hug I'd exchanged with thousands and thousands of Floridians over the years," Crist wrote. "I didn't think a thing about it as it was happening." But it "ended my viable life as a Republican politician. I would never have a future in my old party again. My bipartisan hopes and dreams, I would discover soon enough to my shock and disappointment, were vastly overstated and hopelessly out of date."
In May 2014, however, Crist told Fusion's Jorge Ramos that he had left the Republican Party because of its racial attitudes. "I couldn't be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I'll just go there," Crist said. "I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me." In The Washington Post, Chris Cilizza rejected this claim, citing Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith as saying that Crist "was happy as a Republican when the polls showed him leading Marco Rubio by 20 points." Cilizza stated that Crist's party switch "epitomized for many within the Republican base that Crist lacked any core principles or beliefs and, instead, simply went with whatever was popular at the moment."
In a review for The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner called The Party's Over an "account of why Crist switched parties", and that Crist had "revealed himself". Writing in Rolling Stone Magazine in 2014, Jeb Lund described Charlie Crist as "a Republican conveniently converted to Democrat", adding: "what made Crist dynamic as a Republican ... was a vaguely populist nose-thumbing at Republican orthodoxy", and that "Charlie Crist is a Democrat only if you are a Republican."
In July 2013, it was announced that Crist would be releasing a new book and that it was in the process of being written. The release hinted he would be running in the 2014 gubernatorial election. The book, released in February 2014, is titled The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat. The book details why Crist became a Democrat and left the Republican Party. On November 1, 2013, Crist filed to run for governor as a Democrat.
Having won the Democratic nomination, Crist was defeated in the 2014 gubernatorial election by Republican incumbent Rick Scott.
Crist holds the rare distinction of losing a statewide general election in Florida as a Republican, Democrat and Independent candidate.
On October 20, 2015, Crist announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Florida's 13th congressional district, his home district, in the 2016 U.S. House of Representatives elections. He had previously announced on Twitter that he would not run for political office in 2016. Republican incumbent David Jolly, who succeeded 43-year incumbent Bill Young in a 2014 special election, was vacating the seat to run for the same Senate seat for which Crist ran in 1998 and 2010.
However, when Senator Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election, Jolly decided to drop out of the Senate race and seek re-election to the House. He did so even though the 13th had been made significantly more Democratic-leaning when a court tossed out Florida's original congressional map. The new map drew nearly all of St. Petersburg, along with most of the more Democratic southern portion of Pinellas County, into the 13th. Crist defeated Jolly 52-48%, becoming the first Democrat to win this seat since 1955.
In 2018, Crist was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, which called him "a leader on protecting Florida from and planning for the impacts of climate change during his time as Governor and in Congress." Crist won the election.
In June 2017, Crist was one of 24 House Democrats who voted for Kate's Law. The following month, Crist was one of five Democrats who voted to fund President Trump's border wall, and the next day issued a statement saying that he opposed the wall.
On May 9, 2013, Crist announced that he supports same-sex marriage; "I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here." In both 2006 and 2008, Crist announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment although by 2010, he had endorsed adoption rights for gay couples.
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, Crist announced a reversal of some of his previous stances on gun control. Prior to 2012, Crist had sometimes accused his opponents of not supporting gun rights strongly enough. Crist had also been endorsed by the NRA in 2006. Specifically, in 2012, Crist announced that he supported reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, banning high-capacity magazines, and instating more extensive background checks. In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Crist announced his support for additional measures, including a ban on bump stocks. Crist also stated that he does not support arming teachers.
When he left the gubernatorial office in 2011, Crist had an "A" rating from the NRA. In 2016, Crist received an "F" rating from the NRA, indicating that the organization believes that he is an enemy of gun owners' rights.
In a February 12, 2018, op-ed for USA Today, Crist complained that Florida was "one of only three states that permanently bans non-violent, ex-felons from voting" and pronounced that this "disenfranchisement of 1.5 million of our fellow citizens is shameful."
In July 1979, Crist married Amanda Morrow. They divorced within a year.
Crist became engaged to Carole Rome on July 3, 2008 after nine months of dating, and was married on December 12 of that year at the First Methodist Church of St. Petersburg, where Crist is a member. In February 2017, Crist announced that he had filed for divorce.
"I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here," the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat wrote on his Facebook page. He congratulated Delaware on becoming the 11th state to legalize gay marriage.
The statement marks a shift in Crist's views on gay marriage. He once supported Florida's constitutional ban on gay marriage, but also later said he wouldn't support a similar federal ban.
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Florida
| Republican nominee for Attorney General of Florida
| Republican nominee for Governor of Florida
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida
| Education Commissioner of Florida
| Governor of Florida
| Attorney General of Florida
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 13th congressional district
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority