Some Democrats still wary of Charlie Crist's plans

12:52 PM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Florida Today) --  It all started with a symbolic hug in Florida two and a half years ago. Thursday night, in a downtown basketball arena in the city they call the "Wall Street of the South," the hug comes full circle.

Charlie Crist, a former Republican and the Florida governor when Barack Obama took office, embraced the president on a Fort Myers stage and blessed his controversial stimulus package, effectively sealing his fate in the state GOP.

Democrats now return that feel-good squeeze, giving Crist an important speaking spot on the final night of the Democratic National Convention and a chance to reboot a political career that seemed to be over when he was crushed by Republican Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate race.

The buzz since Crist endorsed Democrat Bill Nelson in his Senate race a couple of weeks ago has been that he will re-emerge as a Democrat and then run for governor in 2014.

See Also: Is Crist relaunching his political career as a Democrat?

Some Brevard Democrats attending the convention this week seem wary about embracing Crist's potential conversion.

"Charlie Crist was a good governor. He was well-respected. But I feel he's a political opportunist," said Bill Rettinger, 59, a retired respiratory therapist from Palm Bay who worries rallying behind the former Republican will hurt Democrats' credibility.

"We're arguing (as Democrats) that Mitt Romney was for this, then he was for that," Rettinger said. "Well it's the same for Charlie Crist. He was for this, then he was for that. Now he's for something else. Will the real Charlie Crist stand up?"

But Seeta Durjan Begui, 48, a nurse and radio talk show host from Satellite Beach, said she thinks fondly of Crist.

She remembers a moderate governor who supported women's issues and vetoed a bill that would have gutted teacher tenure and would have tied teacher pay to performance. And she thinks the Republican-angering hug he gave the president shows he could be trusted.

"I actually like him," she said. "If he runs as a Democrat, he's going to have my support, 100 percent."

Many Democrats still harbor suspicions of Crist and view him as little more than an opportunist. At various times in his political career, he proclaimed himself pro-life, supported oil drilling off the Florida coast and went after popular Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles.

"He's just going to have a lot of explaining to do," said Alex Sink, who was beaten by Rick Scott in the 2010 governor's race.

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