Charlie Crist, the former governor of Florida and current candidate trying to replace incumbent Governor Rick Scott, said that part of the reason he left the Republican Party was because he saw people within the party opposing the president simply based on race. The remarks came during an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos.
Crist said “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,” he said. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.” He said that Republicans were becoming known as a party of “anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, and anti-gay.” sentiments.
Ramos challenged him on why he left the party, saying that his real reason for leaving was based on the fact that he could not defeat Republican primary challenger Marco Rubio. Crist challenged that notion, reiterating the point that he “left the Republican Party because the leadership went off the cliff.”
The one-time governor said he is “liberated as a Democrat” and that his true colors and feelings now have the ability to be broadcasted. Ramos brought up the issue of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, something Crist used to oppose but now supports. Crist says he thinks it is very important to pass the measure, for the well-being of Floridians and the United States. He claimed that he opposed the measure because Republicans opposed it. Ramos pushed him as pushing the Republican Party line on that issue, and Crist described himself in response as a “square peg in a round hole.”
Republicans were quick to respond to Crist’s suggestion of racism in the party. The Republican National Committee spokeswoman Izzy Santa wrote in an email to Fusion, “Being a flip-flopper is bad enough, but playing the race card to win over voters is pitiful.”
Crist is running as a Democrat to win back the governorship he left after an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate against Kendrick Meeks and Marco Rubio, who would end up winning the race. Crist holds a double-digit lead over Governor Rick Scott, who took over the office after Crist’s departure in 2011.