It won't be "official" until next week, but Charlie Crist will run for governor of Florida.
Crist is expected to make the announcement on Nov. 4 in a downtown St. Petersburg park. He referred to an event as a kickoff; politicians usually don't kick off a non-campaign.
Crist spent the weekend working the Florida Democratic Party's conference like a candidate, as he builds up to finally announcing what seemingly everyone in Florida already knows.
"November 4th gives you a year, one way or the other, and it's time to reach a conclusion," Crist said Saturday at the conference. "I'm leaning a certain way, I think that's obvious."
Obvious, indeed. Crist didn't have a speaking role at the conference, which was wrapping up Sunday, but from beginning to end, he worked hallways, caucus meetings and events.
He was mobbed by supporters and posed for countless photos. The fact that the same activists used to work to try to defeat Crist didn't seem to matter.
"Everybody seems to be very warm to him and he's warming up," said former House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber. "This is the center of Democratic activism in Florida right now and I haven't seen anybody walk up to him and give him an unkind word, and believe me, they would."
Crist, who called himself "the people's governor" after he was sworn in in 2007, questions whether Governor Rick Scott cares about people.
"I wonder about the incumbent and whether or not the people factor is the most important thing that's uppermost in his administration," Crist said. "Without a doubt, the people factor is the most important thing that's uppermost with myself."
FOX Political Editor Craig Patrick says current polls show that between Crist and Scott, it would be a close race.
Crist has been building up to his announcement for more than a year. He showed his commitment to his new party by campaigning with President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates last year.
Then after registering as a Democrat, he began traveling the state and talking to Democratic groups. He said he wanted to make sure the support would be there if he ran for governor.
"Realize we're talking about a fellow as an opponent who has said he will spend $100 million in this race and added more to that by saying he would spend at the outset $25 million defining his opponent. I think I know what that means," said Crist. "I need to know that if I jump into this deep water, there's going to be some lifeboats. So I have tried to test those waters and learn about that, and so far I feel pretty good about it."
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, who camped out in the hotel where the Democrats held their conference, called Crist an untrustworthy opportunist, pointing at his decision to leave the GOP primary for Senate in 2010 and run as an independent.
"When the economy got tough and he was running for the U.S. Senate, he was traveling the state giving the most right-wing, red-meat speeches that I've ever heard before or since. Then when that didn't work, suddenly he was this (independent) that stands for everybody -- and now he's a Democrat," Curry said.
Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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