Charlie Crist: Florida Democrats pick challenger to Ron DeSantis

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On the final significant election day before the general election in November, Mr. Crist defeated Nikki Fried, the state's agricultural commissioner.

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Assuming Mr. DeSantis will run for president in 2024, Democrats are eager to dethrone the rising star.

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On Tuesday, voters also selected candidates in Oklahoma and New York.

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For the final two years of Democratic President Joe Biden's term, the outcome of the midterm elections will determine who controls Congress.

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Republican Marc Molinaro lost to Democrat Pat Ryan in New York state's special election for an open US House seat. That contest might serve as a proxy for the midterm elections.

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In Florida, a vital swing state in presidential elections that has slowly shifted more Republican under the governor's leadership, Mr. Crist is now trailing Mr. DeSantis by a few percentage points, according to surveys.

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Prior to joining the Democratic Party in 2012, Mr. Crist was the state's governor for one term as a Republican.

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In response to Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Crist said, "Tonight, the people of Florida plainly delivered a message: they want a governor who cares about them and solves genuine problems, maintains our freedom, not a bully who divides us and takes our freedom away."

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Mr. DeSantis responded at his victory celebration in a ballroom in the Miami area: "Never will we give in to the awakened agenda. Where the woke go to die is Florida."

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The Republican governor won his first election in 2018 by a margin of less than 0.5 percentage points and has since risen to the top of the list of his fellow party members' favourite governors.

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He is often seen by Republicans as a natural successor to former President Donald Trump due to his vehement resistance to mask and vaccine regulations during the coronavirus outbreak and his refusal to back down on cultural war flashpoints from abortion to education.

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