Charlie Crist on Principles & Values



This is a moment for inclusion rather than exclusion

His whole career, Charlie has honored the "Golden Rule," working to build unity rather than fueling division, to restore civility rather than rejecting those who have a different view. Charlie believes that this is a moment for inclusion rather than exclusion, for openness rather than secrecy, for solving our greatest challenges by working together.
Source: 2021 Florida Gubernatorial campaign website CharlieCrist.com , May 5, 2021

I stand for fairness and trying to treat people right

What does Charlie Crist stand for? "Some use the word opportunist," he tells me. (Crist is one of those politicians who will tell you all the terrible things people say about him.) "Yeah, this is a delightful opportunity, to run into a $100 million buzz saw face-first. That's a joyous thought, right?"

What he stands for, he says, is "fairness and trying to treat people right." He thinks now that he never should have been a Republican, the sort of blithe declaration that makes Florida Republicans choke on their food. But it's true that Crist's actions annoyed plenty of Republicans even when he was one of them. As a state senator in the 1990s, education commissioner in the Jeb Bush gubernatorial administration, state attorney general, and governor beginning in 2007, Crist enjoyed bucking his party [on abortion, voting rights, education, and environmental issues]. Other than the party label, Crist says, "None of this is new. I haven't really changed."

Source: The Atlantic Magazine on 2014 Florida governor's race , Mar 11, 2014

Original family name "Christodoulos", from Greek Cyprus

The original family name was Christodoulos. They came from Cyprus, a small island nation in the eastern Mediterranean just south of Turkey and 500 miles south of mainland Greece. Cyprus is divided between Greeks and Turks, who got along about as well as Washington Republicans and Democrats. My father's father, Adam Christodoulos, traveled to America in 1912 at the age of 14 for the same reasons immigrants have always come: for freedom and opportunity and the chance to build a better life. Adam didn't have the proper papers. Some people today might call him an illegal immigrant.

When WWI broke out, earning an honorable discharge, he was eligible to become a citizen of the US--not so different from today's immigrant "Dreamers".

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 10-11 , Feb 4, 2014

1966: Father won Pinellas County School Board seat

In 1966, when I was almost 10, my dad decided to run for the Pinellas County School Board--as a Republican, of course.

I guess you'd call my dad fiscally conservative and socially moderate. He liked low taxes. He wanted local businesses to thrive. But he was troubled by the racial segregation that lingered in Florida and elsewhere. He very much believed in equal opportunity and social programs that worked.

My dad had never shown the slightest interest in running for office. But as a family physician, he'd gotten involved with a new federal program called Head Start. He loved the idea of Head Start. But he didn't like the way the local Head Start office was being operated. He knew the school board was supposed to have oversight. So he decided to run.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 16 , Feb 4, 2014

Married at age 21; divorced soon after

I really liked Mandy Morrow. One Sunday afternoon during my first year at Cumberland Law, she was visiting me in Birmingham. I hated that she had to head back to Tallahassee.

"Let's get married," I said.

"Really?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Why not?"

"Okay," she said.

Mandy called that night and asked, "Are you sure about what you said this afternoon? We're kind of young." We were both 21. "Yeah," I told her. "It's exactly what I want to do."

We had a big wedding that summer.

She moved to Birmingham, got a job as an urban planner, and we started arguing about silly stuff.

Nobody in my family had ever been divorced before. We cared for each other. She was a lovely person. She still is. It just didn't work out for us.

I do think the experience made me think long and hard before marrying again, and it made me a believer in living together before marriage.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 29-30 , Feb 4, 2014

While Governor, married Carole Rome; called "First Fiancee"

Harry Sargeant, a fraternity buddy of mine, had set up a late fund-raising dinner for me. Harry had told me about Carole Rome. Half the plan for the dinner was to meet her. Next to her was a conspicuously open seat. We hit it off instantly. It was like I had known this woman my entire life. She was smart. She was funny. She seemed great.

She told me about growing up on Long Island. Her family was in the Halloween business, she said. I don't think I'd ever met anyone in that field before. She had a business degree from Georgetown University.

Then, we started dating. Dating a governor is not without complication. It's a little different from dating a regular guy. There are a few extra stares in restaurants. And you have these people with guns around you all the time, everywhere you go.

I was head-over-heels smitten. I thought to myself, "I'd like to marry that girl." I don't believe "First Fiancee" is an official title, but some people started using the phrase around Tallahassee.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p.108-111&128 , Feb 4, 2014

Opposing anything the Democrats proposed--that wasn't my way

We were in the most difficult economic recession since the Great Depression. Yet today's Republicans seemed opposed to the very idea of helping people in a time of need. That didn't sit right with my values and what I'd been brought up to believe.

In this new Republican view, you needed to bash Obama. You needed to attack his health care plan. You needed to oppose anything he stood for--really, anything the Democrats proposed. It didn't matter whether the idea was a good one or a bad one. The base was hungry for juicy red meat. The long-term strategy, as well I could discern one, went something like this: Republicans had to hurt the president. We had to cripple government. We had to make sure that nothing the Democrats tried would succeed. That way, people would get frustrated with the current administration, and our party would ultimately benefit.

It was as cynical a strategy as I had ever heard. It was the new Republican way. But it wasn't my way.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p.240 , Feb 4, 2014


We banged our independent message as hard as we could. In the 1st week of September, the 1st full week after the parties' primaries, Josh Isay produced a powerfully clear TV commercial for me. In the ad, I am walking between 2 sets of giant block letters- red "REPUBLICAN" on my right, blue "DEMOCRAT" on my left.

"The way to get results for Florida and improve the economy," I say, "is by putting aside our differences and putting people ahead of politics." All the while, I am rearranging the letters as I walk, "As an Independent, I will take the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans to get things done," I say. "Because at the end of the day, there's only one party I work for."

The camera pulls out to reveal the letters now spell out "AMERICANS."

And then: "I'm Charlie Crist, an Independent, and I approve this message."

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p.270-271 , Feb 4, 2014

1986: First campaign: lost State Senate primary runoff

In 1986 I made my 1st run for office. I was 29 years old. Some friends reached out to me and suggested I might try for a state senate seat in St. Petersburg. They knew I was active in the community groups and I'd grown up in St. Pete. That's a very typical path in politics.

I campaigned door-to-door. I had a slogan--"Crist: A Name You Can Trust"--which I printed on yard signs and leaflets.

In a tight 4-candidate field, I made it to the Republican primary runoff, then lost by about 200 votes.

Source: The Party's Over, by Charlie Crist, p. 33-34 , Feb 4, 2014

New kind of Republican: reasonable moderate leader

The argument that the GOP's future depended on fielding moderate candidates wasn't a new one. It had been building for a while, especially in Florida. Charlie Crist had won the Republican nomination for governor by veering as far to the right as he plausibly could. But the day after his primary, he had tacked sharply back to the middle, where he remained ever since. In his 2 years as governor, he had pursued policies designed to position him as a new kind of Republican: a reasonable, moderate leader who wasn't afraid to wage war against extreme elements in the party.

The capital press corps considered Crist one of the more masterful politicians in Florida's history, a gifted retail politician who could charm anyone. And they especially enjoyed it when Crist took on GOP legislators, which he did quite often during his first 2 years in office. He was clearly trying to create the perception he was a courageous, fighting centrist who would take the party back from conservative ideologues.

Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.171 , Jun 19, 2012

2009: Ran for Senate after expected unopposed run for Gov.

The news on the morning of February 4 was hard to believe. Charlie Crist wasn't running. There had been rumors to that effect earlier, but no one had taken them seriously. Everyone close to him had laughed them off. It made little sense to anyone. Crist was an immensely popular governor who stood a good chance of running unopposed for reelection. It was an open secret that he harbored presidential ambitions, and a landslide reelection as governor in 2010 would ensure he was a serious contender for the presidential nomination in 2012. It was still unlikely he would run for the Senate, but his flirtation with the idea would freeze the field and make it very hard for any other candidate to get traction until he made a decision after the legislature adjourned in May.

I'm not proud of my initial reaction to the news. If Crist runs for the Senate, I thought to myself, I'll run for governor.

Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.174 , Jun 19, 2012

2009: Embraced Obama publicly, to promote stimulus bill

The stimulus bill would lead to the hug that would come to define Charlie Crist. Shortly before Congress passed his stimulus bill, the president looked for a place to hold a campaign-style rally to promote his plan, and a Republican ally to give it bipartisan legitimacy. He found the place in Florida, and the Republican ally in Charlie Crist.

Crist introduced the president at the rally, and when the president made his way to the podium the two men embraced each other. In the months to come, we would use that image to devastating effect.

That embrace reminded Republicans of all the things Crist had done [against the GOP]. Had the embrace symbolized only Crist's self-interested political maneuvering, the entire episode wouldn't have amounted to much. But to many Republicans, and especially the Tea Party movement, it symbolized the Republican's Party's fear of the left and its acquiescence to the rise of big-government intervention in the private sphere as the answer to the nation's problems.

Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.176-177 , Jun 19, 2012

OpEd: Ran as independent because of polls, not principles

Crist came out with guns blazing in our debate on October 15. He leveled many of the same charges he had been making for months, and continued to present himself as the reasonable centrist running against a liberal Democrat and an "extremist" right-winger. I was ready for it, and delivered the counterpunch I had been preparing for days.

"This notion, Governor, that you switched to become an independent because you're some kind of centrist who's looking out for the betterment of the country, quite frankly, is a fairy tale that only you believe. You're running as an independent not because you took a principled stand on the issues; you're running as an independent because you took a poll."

Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.274-275 , Jun 19, 2012

OpEd: Switched to Independent when polls swung to 30% loss

Crist's campaign was falling apart. He'd gone from a 50 percentage point lead to a 30 percentage point deficit, an epic swing. In later April, a month after promising to run as a Republican, Crist dropped out of the Republican primary to run as an independent. His lead advisors left the campaign, and he had to turn to his sister, Margaret Crist Wood, to manage his severely hobbled effort. Big-name endorsers abandoned him and switched to Rubio.

If it had been a boxing match, the referee would have waved his arms and declared a Rubio victory right then and there, a win by technical knockout. There were months to go before the general elections, and there was still the matter of getting past the Democrats, who in August would nominate an African American US congressman named Kendrick Meek. But with Rubio's poll numbers so robust, and the prospect of Crist pulling votes away from Democrats rather than Republicans, the race was becoming a foregone conclusion.

Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.161-162 , Jun 19, 2012

I would have left GOP anyway; they're too extreme

Meek and Crist both tried to portray Rubio as too rigidly conservative for Florida. Crist, who launched an independent campaign after losing the Republican primary to Rubio, said he would have left the Republican Party even if he had won the primary. "Th Republican Party and the right wing of that party went so far right, it's exactly why Marco Rubio stayed there, it's exactly the same reason that I left," Crist said, citing "these extreme views that I am not comfortable with."

Rubio shot back that Crist "changes positions on the issues because he wants to win the election."

Crist tried to present himself as an independent throughout the debate, at one point calling the conversation between Meek and Rubio over tax cuts an example of partisan "bickering" that voters dislike. "You are seeing it right now, right here," Crist said. "That is why I'm running as an independent."

Meek suggested differently: "The governor is running as an independent, because he couldn't beat Marco Rubio."

Source: CNN ElectionCenter coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate , Oct 24, 2010

We need open-mindedness in a Senator, not ideology

Meek attacked Rubio, almost warning Floridians against him: "It's important that we grow this economy. It's the very reason we should not federalize Marco Rubio," Meek said. "He is thinking of ideology that would put the middle class in the hole forever. On his economic policies, Meek said, "I can tell you what Mr. Rubio is talking about is not a solution, it's ideology."

In a back-and-forth that defined their campaigns, Crist depicted Rubio as a conservative ideologue unable or unwilling to deviate from extreme views regardless of changing dynamics. "You know, facts change all the time," Crist said. "I think people want an open-minded senator rather than the opposite, a closed-minded senator."

Rubio "wouldn't accept tax cuts on 98% of the people in America because of his ideology," Crist said. "That's exactly the problem, that's what's not right with Washington today." While Crist advocated a compromise, Meek backed the Obama position.

Source: CNN ElectionCenter coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate , Oct 24, 2010

In Rubio's $600,000 slush fund only $4000 went to candidates

CRIST: I view public service as a calling, something that you do to try to help other people. Unfortunately, recent news accounts indicate that Speaker Rubio views public service as a way to enhance his personal enrichment. And that's just wrong. For example, he set up about a $600,000 slush fund which he utilized for ostensibly political purposes but it's been shown lately it's been used to fix his minivan, get haircuts, employ family members, things of this nature that are not what a political committee is supposed to do. In fact, out of the $600,000 that were raised, only $4,000 went to candidates to try to improve their chances to be elected to office.

RUBIO: Those allegations have been proven false. Here are the facts. This is not taxpayer money. It was raised for the purposes of political advancement, for advancing a political agenda. And that's what the money was spent on. All this money's been accounted for.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate , Mar 28, 2010

Problem solving requires consensus, and sometimes concession

Q: In your recent state of the state speech, you said this: "Problem solvers recognize that important achievements often require consensus, and consensus sometimes requires concession." You'd look for areas to work with President Obama, areas of consensus and areas of concession?

CRIST: I would work to make sure that I stand with people who will help the people of my state and my country. I am a pragmatic, common-sense conservative, always have been. I also understand that we're in a tough economy right now, and when you're in a tough economy, sometimes you have to do the kinds of things that make sense in order to be able to keep people employed. You can't just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you're going to do great things and stand on principle above the people of your state that you're supposed to serve. You've got to do what's right. And this race comes down to doing what's right. That's what it's all about.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate , Mar 28, 2010

Humble roots led to values of lower taxes & less government

Charlie Crist's life illustrates the American dream, beginning nearly 100 years ago when his grandfather Adam came to America from Cyprus. Nearly penniless, Adam sought a better life by first shining shoes. Later, he would own a small business, and eventually raise a family of seven children. One son became a doctor who married and raised four children in St. Petersburg, Florida. One of those four is Adam's grandson, Charlie Crist, who now serves as Florida's Governor.

Charlie Crist has never forgotten his humble roots and remains committed to the values that have made America the envy of freedom-loving people for more than two centuries. His public service is defined by tireless devotion to the citizens of Florida, a fundamental belief in the goodness of people, and a rock-solid commitment to the core principles that have allowed his family to succeed--lower taxes, less government and more freedom.

Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, www.charliecrist.com, "Issues" , Dec 25, 2009

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Page last updated: Jul 28, 2021