The stakes in Florida’s gubernatorial election have only risen in the last 365 days, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will argue on the one-year anniversary of his gubernatorial campaign.
In his prepared remarks, to be delivered Wednesday during an 11 a.m. event in Tampa, the St. Petersburg Democrat will stress the need to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis in light of a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would eliminate women’s right to abortions.
Crist’s speech will put plainly his stance on abortion, which has confounded political observers for decades, even as recently as last month.
“Next year, as your Governor, I’ll veto any anti-choice legislation that comes to my desk,” read Crist’s prepared remarks.
The overnight shift in the national conversation to abortion occurred after POLITICO published the leaked draft Monday evening. In Florida, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday said they feared the Republican-controlled Legislature, which passed a 15-week abortion ban in March, could soon move to outlaw abortion outright.
“If the Court follows through on this decision, the last line of defense will be America’s Governors,” Crist’s remarks read.
As abortion emerges as a campaign issue for the midterms, the Democratic front-runner’s comments will help refocus his message on the issue.
During a sit-down with WPTV’s Shannon Cake last month, Crist called himself in favor of abortion rights but still “pro-life.” And he called the generally accepted definitions of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” “somebody else’s definition.”
“I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I always have,” Crist said. “I am still pro-life, meaning I am for life. I hope most people are, and I think it’s important to understand the distinction.”
Before Crist can face DeSantis in November, he must secure his party’s nomination over two Democratic colleagues, both women. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Annette Taddeo have entered the race since Crist launched his campaign. Both have also issued statements lamenting the possible Court ruling.
However, Crist holds the distinction of being the only gubernatorial candidate to have vetoed a bill restricting abortions.
When Crist was Governor, elected in 2006 as a Republican, he vetoed legislation that would have required women to pay for an ultrasound before opting to have an abortion.
“We all know what Gov. DeSantis would do. He’s already shown us,” according to Crist’s remarks. “And he wants to appoint another far-right Florida Supreme Court Justice this summer, who could overturn Florida’s privacy clause in the state constitution that’s the last remaining defense if and when Roe v. Wade falls.”
On Tuesday, DeSantis reaffirmed his “pro-life” stance and decried leaking the draft Court decision as an unprecedented “judicial insurrection.”
“They need to figure out who did that and they need to hold them accountable because that’s a real significant breach of trust,” DeSantis said. “You want to talk about an insurrection, that’s a judicial insurrection, to be taking that out and trying to kneecap a potential majority through extra-constitutional means.”
Crist’s anniversary speech will also hit the incumbent Governor on the rising cost of living and accuse him of forgetting Florida and repeatedly violating the state and U.S. constitutions. Crist will say DeSantis preaches hate as he wages a culture war.
“This Governor is a bully. He imitates the worst of authoritarian leaders aligned against the United States. And he’s doing it for one reason — his ambition to capture the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2024,” reads the speech.
“Gov. DeSantis is the worst Governor in Florida’s modern era. It’s not a close call.”
The latest polling still shows Crist leading his Primary opponents in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Meanwhile, he’s racked up a growing list of endorsements, including recent support from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and state Sen. Shevrin Jones.
However, the latest polling have shown DeSantis with a double-digit lead over Crist, Fried and Taddeo — a far cry from 2018, when DeSantis defeated Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum by less than half a percentage point.