Florida Democrats Pick Charlie Crist to Face Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Democrats chose Representative Charlie Crist as their nominee for governor on Tuesday, betting that the former Republican governor who campaigned on a return to political decency was their best bet to try to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis, the polarizing Republican incumbent.

Mr. Crist’s blowout victory sets up the general election against Mr. DeSantis as a contest between a centrist and a hard-right conservative, 

with Democrats believing that the well-known and peaceable Mr. Crist can attract independent voters and Republicans who are fed up with Mr. DeSantis’s aggressive right-wing policies.

“They want a governor who cares about them, who solves real problems, who preserves our freedom,” Mr. Crist told supporters gathered in his hometown, St. Petersburg, 

as he pivoted quickly to attacking Mr. DeSantis. “Not a bully who divides us and takes our freedom away.”

But Mr. DeSantis is a formidable foe, having built his national profile during the coronavirus pandemic as a Republican eager to fight public health experts. 

His political rise has made him a favorite to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 and helped him amass more than $130 million for his re-election campaign, an eye-popping amount that Democrats are not expected to come close to matching.

Mr. DeSantis did not face a primary challenger but still campaigned for down-ballot candidates and started a series of highly produced television ads,