A lot of political dominoes are teetering in Pinellas County as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist considers running for governor. But the fellow who held that seat before Crist says in the latest episode of Political Party with Adam Smith that his eyes are squarely on the governor’s mansion, and not his old south Pinellas seat.
“I’m building out an infrastructure to run for governor of the state of Florida as an independent candidate in the next cycle, and Charlie’s decision doesn’t change that whatsoever,” said former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly. “I’m spending this year building out the infrastructure so that I can make a final decision towards the end of this calendar year.”
Jolly and Crist are on parallel and intertwined paths. Crist unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate as an independent candidate, and Jolly is now preparing for an independent run against Crist for governor.
“Charlie’s running for governor – no question. He’s calling everybody trying to build both a donor network and a support network. He sees what looks like a weak Democratic field for governor,” Jolly said.
Crist was a Democrat when he defeated then-Republican Jolly in 2016, but today Jolly gives his Crist strong marks as a congressman.
“I don’t say this as a potential candidate for governor, I say this as a Pinellas County resident: I think Charlie should stay in Congress. I think Charlie is doing well by the people in Pinellas County,” he said.
A high-profile critic of Donald Trump on MSNBC, Jolly scoffed at the notion he could be a spoiler hurting the Democratic nominee against Ron DeSantis.
“Democrats haven’t won the governor’s mansion in 28 years,” he noted. “So if I’m spoiling anything, is it another runner up position for Democrats in ’22? Or maybe Democrats might consider that the best way to change leadership in Tallahassee is some type of coalition that puts an independent in the governor’s mansion to succeed Ron DeSantis.”
Crist running for governor would create a once in a generation congressional seat opening certain to interest a host of Pinellas politicians. Democrats potentially in the mix include state Rep. Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn, who served in the Obama administration’s defense department. Republicans often mentioned include state Sen. Jeff Brandes, state Rep. Nick DiCeglie, and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. And Jolly, who is executive chairman of the Serve American Movement organization, did not entirely close the door on an independent run for his old seat.
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