Rep. Charlie Crist is projected to have defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday in Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary, ABC News reports, setting up a high-profile matchup against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall.
With about 92% of the expected vote counted, Crist won with roughly 60% of the vote, while Fried trailed in second with about 35%.
Crist will next face off against DeSantis, a top Democratic boogeyman who has emerged as a major GOP culture warrior, forcing through several policies through in Florida on issues like discussing sexual orientation and gender topics in public schools.
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Crist previously served as governor himself — but as a Republican before becoming an independent once leaving office and ultimately running for the House as a Democrat. Running against Fried, Florida's only statewide elected Democrat, he insisted he could appeal to a broader swath of the electorate with his more moderate "happy warrior" persona.
DeSantis, who narrowly won his 2018 race, heads into the general with a war chest of over $130 million — and a rising national profile.
Democrats hope to unseat him in an attempt to not only win back the governor's mansion but also cut off a potential 2024 presidential bid by the first-term governor.
Rep. Charlie Crist addresses supporters and members of the media as he arrives to vote in person on Election Day at Gathering Church, Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla.Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP
In the primary, Crist and Fried battled over their ideological purity and ability to defeat DeSantis.
Crist also criticized Fried for her ties to the Republican Party. As a lobbyist for a medical marijuana company, she campaigned for former State Sen. Manny Diaz of Miami, the current education commissioner and staunch ally of DeSantis. Fried also was college friends with Trump-ally Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Fried lambasted Crist's party switching, casting him as soft on key Democratic issues like abortion access and argued that she could produce a groundswell of Democratic voters this November.