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In Florida, Democrat Crist to face incumbent DeSantis in quest for governor

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Poll results are in for Florida's primary.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Right. And Democrat Charlie Crist will be facing incumbent Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in the November general election. Crist served as Florida's governor before, more than a decade ago, when he was still a Republican. He is now a Democrat and a member of Congress who has his sights set on returning to the governor's mansion in Tallahassee.

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CHARLIE CRIST: We can unite Democrats, independents and many Republicans who care about our Florida, and we will defeat Ron DeSantis.

(CHEERING)

MARTINEZ: NPR's Greg Allen has been following all of this in Miami. Greg, Crist won the nomination over a younger leader in the party, Florida's agriculture secretary, Nikki Fried. Now can he unseat Ron DeSantis?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, that will be a difficult task - one that Crist says he's up for. DeSantis is very popular among Republicans in Florida. It's akin to the loyalty we saw Trump received from Republicans nationally. DeSantis has more than $130 million currently in the bank. That gives him more than enough money to blanket Florida's 10 media markets with ads he wrote went out yesterday. That's gotten some attention. It's a take-off on the Tom Cruise "Top Gun" films, shows DeSantis wearing a jumpsuit and helmet in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

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RON DESANTIS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your governor speaking. Today's training evolution - dogfighting, taking on the corporate media. The rules of...

ALLEN: It's an ad that kind of highlights DeSantis' pugnacious style, and it's likely going to play well with his supporters.

MARTINEZ: Now, how do you expect that Charlie Crist will respond? I mean, will he have enough money to run an effective campaign?

ALLEN: Well, this is going to be a very high-profile campaign that gets a lot of attention nationally. And donations from both candidates will flow in from around the country. One consultant I spoke with said that Crist should get at least $50 or $60 million at least to work with more than enough to to run his ads. In terms of themes, here's an ad that Crist has already been running.

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CRIST: Think about what's at stake in Florida. Governor 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. And he cares more about running for the White House than your house.

ALLEN: You know, Charlie Crist is a very familiar name in Florida. This will be his seventh run for statewide office. And that brings pros and cons with it. Democrats hope he can be a reassuring voice who will appeal to Democrats and independents. The question will be whether he can generate enough enthusiasm among Democrats to bring out large numbers of voters to the polls.

MARTINEZ: Greg, what about DeSantis? I mean, what kind of campaign do you expect that he'll run?

ALLEN: Well, he's fought with the Biden administration over COVID policy and immigration. And he'll continue to highlight that battle. He's really embraced culture wars issues. And by that, I mean things like abortion ban, which is signed after 15 weeks. He's taken aim at transgender athletes and worked to restrict transition medical care for minors. He's signed what he's called his anti-woke legislation, which restricts how issues involving race are discussed in the schools and even in corporate training materials. And that's been tied up in the courts right now. The talk about ideas being woke has become a major campaign theme for him. And he's using it to build his national stature as he considers a possible bid for the White House. Last week, he was in Pennsylvania campaigning with the Republican gubernatorial nominee there, Doug Mastriano.

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DESANTIS: We must fight the woke in our schools. We must fight the woke in our businesses. We must fight the woke in government agencies.

(CHEERING)

DESANTIS: We can never, ever surrender to woke ideology.

ALLEN: Another thing that's in DeSantis' favor is that Florida, which has long been considered a swing state, has trended more and more Republican in recent years. Democrats held a voter registration edge for many years, but that's no longer the case. There are now more registered Republicans than Democrats in Florida now. And every official elected statewide in the last election, except for one, is Republican.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Greg Allen previewing the race for governor in Florida.

Greg, thanks.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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