Election season heats up in Florida as former Gov. Charlie Crist airs first ad against Gov. Ron DeSantis

Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor, kicked his campaign up a notch in a new television ad that went live July 14. In the ad, “Fighting Back,” Crist looked past his opponents in the ongoing primary election and turned his attention to the incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Crist said he’s fighting back against DeSantis’ radical agenda that he feels puts Floridians’ freedoms and wellbeing at risk. “Gov. Ron DeSantis bullies schoolchildren. He wants to outlaw abortion, even for victims of rape and incest. He opposes any background checks on guns, even for violent criminals,” Crist said. “He cares more about running for the White House than your house.”

The ad comes just after California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, made national headlines with his $105,000 ad buy against DeSantis. The unexpected attack from across the country aired in Florida on Independence Day. Newsom, like Crist, criticized DeSantis for not upholding Floridian’s rights. He also cited controversial laws enacted by DeSantis, such as the state’s 15-week abortion ban and legislation limiting freedom of speech in schools.

DeSantis has not commented on Crist’s ad. However, DeSantis’ office did respond to Newsom. “We’re too busy enjoying the freedom Gov. Ron DeSantis has created in the Sunshine State,” said spokesperson Dave Abrams. “Newsom might as well light a pile of cash on fire.”

All that said, Newsom spent less than one percent of his re-election funds on the ad. His campaign budget had more than $20 million at the time it aired, and its reach has been wide. The ad was viewed more than three million times on Twitter alone as of last week. And with rumors swirling that both governors are likely to make a future presidential run, it’s safe to say the ad was a solid investment for Newsom’s campaign.

Crist is a familiar face when it comes to Florida politics. He started his career in government more than 30 years ago as a Republican state senator from 1992-1998. Over the next decade, he served as education commissioner and subsequently as the attorney general. In 2007, he ran for governor and won. Instead of seeking re-election, he campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2010. He was unsuccessful and lost to current Sen. Marco Rubio.

After a hiatus from elected office, he switched parties and returned to political life in 2013 as a Democrat. He attempted to win back his former position as governor but lost to Republican Rick Scott.

Crist found a place in Florida politics as a Democrat in 2016 when he won the election for U.S. Representative in District 13. He announced his candidacy for governor in May 2021. He will face off against Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, in the Democratic primary on Aug. 23. If he wins, he goes head-to-head against DeSantis in the general election this November.

A poll obtained by NBC News surveyed 1,200 Florida voters in mid-May. The results showed Christ earning 48% of the vote, and DeSantis earning 47%. While it’s a slim margin, and polls are likely to change over the upcoming weeks, those numbers are promising for a Democratic rival going up against an incumbent Republican governor in a heavily red state.

Genevieve Bowen is a FIU student majoring in digital journalism and political science. She aspires to be a political reporter, combining her love for writing and penchant for politics. Her articles aim to keep citizens well informed and up to date on local, state, and federal politics that affect everyday life.