Former Gov. Charlie Crist has taken one more step away from the Republican Party and toward Democrats, confirming he’ll support Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s re-election bid against Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV.
Crist said today he’ll attend a fundraiser for Nelson featuring former President Bill Clinton and scheduled for tonight at the home of Crist’s current boss – personal injury lawyer John Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan firm in Orlando.
The development will only add to speculation about whether Crist eventually will seek office as a Democrat – perhaps in the 2014 governor’s race.
It also carries some irony: Crist began his political career as an acolyte of former Sen. Connie Mack III, the father of the current Senate candidate.
A campaign volunteer and staffer for the elder Mack, Crist proclaimed himself a disciple when he began running for office, even adopting Mack’s campaign slogan – "Less taxes, less government, more freedom."
Crist was a friend of the younger Mack until Crist left the GOP to run as a no-party candidate against Marco Rubio. Mack took heat from his own party for backing Crist in the 2010 Senate primary.
In an interview, Crist wouldn’t say how much money he intends to contribute to Nelson.
"I haven’t decided yet," he said. "I’ll have my checkbook in hand."
Asked why he’s choosing Nelson over Mack, Crist called Nelson "a strong voice of common sense and moderation for the citizens of Florida." He said he has been a friend of Nelson and his wife, Grace Nelson, for years.
"I have nothing bad to say about Connie Mack," he said.
Crist said he hasn’t talked to either of the Macks about his decision and reiterated his admiration for the elder Mack. "I think the world of Sen. Mack and his wife Priscilla."
Asked whether he’ll be involved in Nelson’s campaign, he said, "We’ll see – one step at a time."
Crist said he’s backing two other Democrats in this year’s election: Patrick Murphy, running against U.S. Rep. Allen West, and Ken Welch, "a long-time family friend" who is running for Pinellas County commissioner.
He said he’s not publicly supporting any Republicans.
He also had an op-ed piece published recently in the Washington Post bashing Gov. Rick Scott’s move to purge state voter rolls, siding with Democrats on a major point of partisan controversy.
Crist switched his voter registration to no-party during the 2010 Senate campaign. His wife Carole, whom Crist married in 2008, previously was a Republican in New York and when she first come to Florida but switched to Democrat in December, he said.
Asked whether he may become a Democrat and whether he’ll consider running for office again, he said, "I don’t know … Who knows what the future holds. Right now I’m enjoying being indie and working hard in the private sector, and only time can tell."