Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, 56, announced his switch from independent to the Democratic Party with a post to Twitter on Friday night after he attended a Christmas event at the White House.
According to TampaBay.com, Florida's former Republican governor, popularly called "Chain Gang Charlie," who had described himself as a "Ronald Reagan Republican" and a "Jeb Bush Republican," made his switch from independent to Democrat official on Friday evening.
The Huffington Post reports he served as GOP governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. He left the Republican Party after he lost a Senate primary battle to Marco Rubio in 2010. Switching to independent, he ran against Rubio in the 2012 general election and lost.
He has been with no party affiliation since the spring of 2010, TampaBay.com reports. After he lost to Rubio, he began a gradual transition to the Democratic Party with his wife, Carole, switching her affiliation to Democrat. Politico reports he was a campaign surrogate for Obama in the 2012 general election and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in favor of Obama's presidency.
Politico reports he said: "I didn't leave the Republican party. It left me."
He posted a photo to Twitter that shows him holding his Florida voter registration papers. He tweeted that he was "proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President @BarackObama!"
Tampabay.com reports he said: "I've had friends for years tell me, 'You know Charlie, you're a Democrat and you don't know it.'"
Orlando Sentinel reports that the former GOP governor was once considered a GOP-vice presidential contender. It is now being speculated that he would be the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida to challenge Governor Rick Scott in 2014. But TampaBay.com reports there are other serious contenders for Democratic governor in 2014, including the former chief financial officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston and former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales.
The reaction to Crist's tweet among Democrats has been "welcome home," but may Republicans have denounced him angrily, calling him a "traitor." Some critics say he is an opportunist whose primary goal is to return to public office by any means.
A recent release from the Florida GOP, said: "Charlie Crist has the ability to meld into any character — from 'Chain Gang Charlie' to sympathetic 'Man of the People' — there is seemingly no role that he can't play."
TampaBay.com reports that although Crist opposed taxes and gun control laws, he has supported higher pay for teachers and he is a prominent advocate for civil rights. Although he says he is"pro-life," his voting record in the Legislature shows he has mostly favored abortion rights.