Crist resigns from Congress as he continues to challenge DeSantis in governor’s race

Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., gestures after declaring victory Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Crist defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election and will face incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Chris O'Meara, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced Wednesday that he will resign from his position as U.S. Representative for Florida’s 13th Congressional District to focus on his gubernatorial campaign against Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Crist said in a phone interview with the Associated Press Wednesday that his resignation would be effective at the end of the day. He noted that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before making the decision.

“She said, ‘I understand, but it looks like we’re in good shape, so you need to do what you need to do and you need to win this election. It’s very important and you don’t have a lot of time,’” Crist said.

The announcement comes just days after Crist announced his running mate in Florida’s gubernatorial election. Crist, now a Democrat, served as the state’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011.

He later switched parties, challenging and losing to Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. He was elected to the St. Petersburg-area congressional seat in 2016.

“I’m going to work hard, get all over the state and win this thing. That’s the plan,” Crist said. “I’ve loved representing my home town and my home county. They’re wonderful people and I look forward to the race ahead and representing them in the governor’s office.”

Crist won the Democratic nomination for governor last week, defeating state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, and has named United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez as his pick for lieutenant governor.

A release announcing his resignation from Congress said staff for the Office of the 13th Congressional District of Florida will continue to provide casework and constituent services until representatives for the newly redistricted 13th and 14th congressional districts of Florida are sworn-in in January.

“Serving as the Representative of Florida’s 13th Congressional District has been an honor and a privilege,” Crist said in the release. “When I first took office nearly six years ago, I vowed to defend our veterans, bring jobs to Florida, fight climate change, and put people over politics. As I close out my time in Congress, I could not be prouder of the work we’ve done to uphold those promises -- passing legislation to support our veterans, expanding solar energy in the Sunshine State, securing millions in direct funding for community projects, and returning over $6 million in earned benefits to the people of Pinellas.

“But these achievements start and end with you, the people -- my bosses -- who have guided my work in Congress since Day One. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for trusting me as your Representative in Washington. And God Bless the great people of Florida’s 13th Congressional District.”

DeSantis also stepped down from Congress early after winning the Republican nomination in 2018.

Crist appended his resignation announcement with a pitch to voters this fall.

“The choice is crystal clear here. If you want a women’s right to choose to be protected, you vote for Charlie Crist; if you want to make sure your vote counts, particularly for African-Americans, you vote for Charlie Crist; if you want the education system to get the support it deserves, you vote for Charlie Crist,” he said.

Republican Anna Paulina Luna will face Democrat Eric Lynn, who worked in President Barack Obama’s administration, for Crist’s vacant seat in November.