We don't have many closet cases in the Democratic Party. That's because Democrats have evolved in such a way as to not judge gays and lesbians-- including themselves-- to be lesser human beings. In recent years there were a dozen closeted Republicans in Congress-- all of them severely mentally disturbed, unbalanced individuals filled with self-loathing and living dark, painful lives based on deception and fear. Some, like Aaron Schock (R-IL), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Trent Franks (R-AZ) and David Dreier (R-CA), are still in Congress, still hysterically antigay, still sneaking around looking for a piece of ass when no one is looking. The only two closeted Democrats I knew of-- one from Virginia and one from Maryland-- were both adamantly pro-gay... so no one ever outed them. If someone choses to live their life in the closet, it's sad for them, but if they're not freaking out and overcompensating by discriminating against the LGBT community, it isn't a public problem; it's a personal matter.
Charlie Crist is-- like with so many matters-- in between. He's always been a closet case and his agenda towards the LGBT community has been kind of mixed. Now that he's finally completed his metamorphisis into a Democrat, he's also free to come to grips with who he is as a person. But I'm betting he doesn't. It will be a lot easier for him to just stop being antigay in policy matters. We'll come back to that in a moment. First Adam Smith's front page, above the fold, banner headlined story in the Tampa Bay Times on the White House Christmas party Friday night where Charlie came out as a Democrat. Smith says "it was just a matter of time."
Crist — Florida's former Republican governor who relished the tough-on-crime nickname "Chain Gang Charlie" and used to describe himself variously as a "Ronald Reagan Republican" and a "Jeb Bush Republican"-- on Friday evening signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat.Crist has a very mixed record on gay issues. As the Tampa Bay Times reported in 2007 when the extreme right was trying to get an anti-gay constitutional amendment on the ballot, Crist supported it-- before opposing it.
He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama's re-election this year than any Florida Democrat.
The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated step: announcing his candidacy for governor, taking on Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and an untold number of Democrats who would challenge him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
"I've had friends for years tell me, 'You know Charlie, you're a Democrat and you don't know it'," Crist, a career-long populist, recounted Friday night from Washington, D.C.
Crist has been registered with no party affiliation since the spring of 2010, when his Republican candidacy for U.S. Senate was fizzling against Republican upstart Marco Rubio. Since losing that race, he has been steadily inching toward the Democratic Party, first when his wife, Carole, switched her affiliation to Democrat and later when he threw himself into Obama's re-election campaign, earning a prominent speaking slot during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Critics from both parties sniff that Crist is merely looking for an avenue back into public office and is willing to throw out his principles to achieve the goal.
"Charlie Crist has the ability to meld into any character-- from 'Chain Gang Charlie' to sympathetic 'Man of the People'-- there is seemingly no role that he can't play," said one recent release from the Florida GOP, which has been blasting Crist regularly in anticipation of him running for governor as a Democrat.
Crist has been consistently opposed to taxes and gun control laws, but in many respects his record is appealing to Democratic activists and donors alike.
He has been a strong supporter of higher pay for teachers. He works for a leading trial lawyer. He was a leading advocate for civil rights as governor and attorney general. And though he describes himself as "pro-life," his voting record in the Legislature was mostly in favor of abortion rights. He has long been more of a populist than a pro-big business Republican.
"What changed is the leadership of the Republican Party," Crist said in a phone interview Friday night. "As I said at the convention, I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me. Whether the issue was immigration, or education, or you name it-- the environment. I feel at home now."
Crist is no shoo-in to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Other prospective candidates include former chief financial officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston and former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales.
"Crist was an absolute warrior for President Obama and as a result, many of the party activists I talk to are willing to welcome him with open arms, and there is no question he is an extremely viable candidate for governor, though I don't think that beating Alex Sink in a primary is any kind of sure thing," said Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who worked on Sink's campaign as well as both of Obama's Florida campaigns.
Crist is listed as an endorser of the amendment on the web site, www.florida4marriage.org. And while running for governor last year, he signed a petition in support of the same sex marriage ban.Three years later, Crist was running for the Senate as an independent-- backing away from some of his anti-gay positions in the past... and dancing around some of the others (particularly his support for legislation that doesn't permit gay couples to adopt children). It always seemed like a balancing act for Crist, rather than any kind of principled leadership.
But after Crist's overwhelming primary victory, social issues all but vanished from the campaign and gave way to issues Crist considers more important, such as insurance, taxes and public safety.
...Gov. Charlie Crist does not want any more Republican Party money spent to promote a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Florida, and on Tuesday he dodged a question of whether people should be able to vote on it.
"I just think that their money can be better spent on other things that may be more pressing, like elections," Crist said. "The people care about issues like insurance premiums. They care about property taxes. They care about public safety."
By distancing himself from the same-sex marriage issue, Crist has again shown a preference for pragmatism over ideology and a lack of enthusiasm for wedge issues.
Gay rights groups and politicians are offering a mixed reaction to Florida Governor Charlie Crist's endorsement of a package of gay rights bills.
The former Republican now running for the U.S. Senate as an independent released a document Monday endorsing a number of gay rights initiatives, but stopped short of backing gay marriage. Instead, Crist reiterated his long-standing belief that the government should recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
In the document, Crist says he supports efforts to end Florida's ban on gay adoption-- a stance he only previously hinted at-- because the law puts politics before the best interest of the child.
...“Crist is obviously trying to win an election, which is easier for him with three candidates than with two,” Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, told us.
Hoch said his group has been lobbying the governor to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender protections) since 2006.
On the group's latest request, Hoch said: “Basically, the response from the campaign was that if Crist issued an executive order now, it would look like he was pandering to the LGBT community. Our response was, we had no objection to his pandering.”
“Over the years, I have tried to give Charlie Crist the benefit of the doubt, but I can no longer do that. There have just been too many times he could have supported our community and either chose not to do so or actively came out against our interests,” Hoch added, referring to Crist's support for placing a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Florida's Constitution.