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Rise of Crist
Charlie Crist Talks Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, Switch to Dem. Party
The Evangeline Oak was not the only miracle in Louisiana on Saturday night. At the Louisiana Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner (J-J,) Crist rose. That would be keynote speaker Charlie Crist, former Florida governor, thwarted Rubio challenger, Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, McCain confidante, Obama hugger, and now author.
The 57-year-old Florida politician made headlines for his switch to the Democratic party in December of 2012. Many believe his move was a strategic attempt to run in Florida's 2014 gubernatorial election.
Before delivering his sermon of the found, the bluebie talked to NoDef about the party switch and his political aspirations.
In part, the serenity can be chalked up to experience, The politico said that previously he had attended only about five Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, all in Florida. However, laughing, Crist explained that he has attended a “lifetime” of the equivalent Lincoln-Reagan dinners held by Republicans.
Asked to compare the two, the party hopper appeared relieved. “Oh yeah. This [J-J] is much better. It's a much happier crowd. Much more welcoming. It's a much bigger tent. More diverse.” A smile punctuated the answer.
Crist held the liberated demeanor of a man cured of a terrible disease. The former GOP star described his transition from Republican to Independent to Democrat as smooth, almost natural.
“It [the switch] couldn't be better. Honestly. The comfort that I feel being in the Democratic Party is hard to describe, but it is genuine. When I saw what was happening with the Republican Party back in 2010, and the rise of the Tea Party, and the craziness that was happening, I just couldn't be true to myself and Stay there. So, I'm delighted to have found a nice new home.”
NoDef questioned why he chose the second switch to the Democratic party as opposed to remaining an independent.
“I love associating with people, and I have come to find that the Democratic Party really embraces the things that are near and dear to me. They're not anti-anything it seems. And, the Republican Party seems to be anti-everything. So, people have told me all my life, 'You're a Democrat, Charlie, and you just don't know it!' Well, now I know it, and now I am it, And, I'm very happy to be here.”
The former governor clearly chose to own his previous tag as a RINO. In fact, he does not see position shifts accompanying his party change. “I have certainly evolved as most Americans have on a number of issues. But, as related to the registration change, not really. No.”
In May of this year, Crist announced his support for same-sex marriage, a definitive shift in stance from his time with the GOP. In 2006, the former governor signed a petition to ban gay marriage.
Pressed whether changes might still be forthcoming, Crist held firm “No. Not that I foresee, but I am an open-minded guy, and I'm going to keep using my brain, and hopefully keep learning more. We'll see.”
After the rash of changes and publicity, the author took time to reflect on his life as he penned a book that he describes as a “recitation on my life” and party change. In retrospect, Crist remained confident in his choices. “I regret nothing.”
In fact the only thing that Crist was non-committal about were his political aspirations. “I don't know. I've thought about running for governor again, but I haven't made a decision.” Asked about a repeat run at the Senate, the longtime politician said that he had given it neither thought nor interest.
No New Orleans interview is complete without an inquiry about our local culture. Crist has been soaking it up since his arrival. The Floridian said he “hadn't stopped eating since he landed.” His culinary stops included Galatoire's, Felix's, Ralph's on the Park, and Commanders Palace. Of course, a visit to 'da Dome to watch the Saints beat up on Oakland was also on the itinerary.
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B. E. Mintz
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