Even as the pandemic wanes and people are returning to a sense of normalcy, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) is signaling his plans to keep COVID as a key issue in his race in Florida against the outspoken and nationally-applauded Governor Ron DeSantis.
In a video obtained by Fox News Digital, Crist, who served as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011, told attendees at a rally in Wilton Manors that, as governor, he would be open to a statewide mask mandate in the Sunshine State.
“I would be open to doing what scientists advise — not political scientists,” Crist said in response to a question regarding his willingness to impose mask requirements.
“Yes,” Crist continued. “I just read an article this morning. I’m glad you brought it up. So I’m going to the airport right after this. I’m going to Orlando, and I’m going to wear a mask on the plane. You don’t have to anymore, but I’m going to because Florida is experiencing an uptick that began this week.”
“And it’s not even the Omicron B2,” Crist added. “It’s a new variant.”
Masks have long been an issue for Crist, who, in the wake of a Florida ruling earlier this month that tossed the Biden administration’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate for public transportation, has continued to push their use.
But even Crist’s Democratic primary opponent, Nikki Fried, is glad the federal mask mandate is over.
“Peace out to the TSA mask mandate, but also peace and respect to others, whether wearing a mask or not,” Fried tweeted, along with a celebratory selfie.
“I’ll read all your takes,” she added, “but the mandates are dropped, vaccines are working, things are getting back to normal, and it’s okay for a Democrat to say it — because we made it possible.”
I'll read all your takes, but the mandates are dropped, vaccines are working, things are getting back to normal, and it's okay for a Democrat to say it — because we made it possible.
I love y'all. 💜
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) April 20, 2022
While Governor DeSantis never imposed a statewide mask mandate on Floridians and remains vehemently against them, Crist has countered the governor’s policies every step of the way.
In August, Crist stated on Twitter, “To Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Leon and Palm Beach school districts: Thank you for issuing mask requirements and putting the safety of our children first.”
To Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Leon and Palm Beach school districts:
Thank you for issuing mask requirements and putting the safety of our children first.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) August 20, 2021
“Ron DeSantis is taking federal aid away from school districts that impose mask requirements,” Crist tweeted in October 2021. “Ron DeSantis wants to endanger our children to curry favor with Donald Trump. That’s despicable.”
BREAKING: Ron DeSantis is taking federal aid away from school districts that impose mask requirements.
Ron DeSantis wants to endanger our children to curry favor with Donald Trump. That’s despicable. Like and retweet if you agree.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) October 29, 2021
By March, Crist had softened his rhetoric in an attempt to paint himself as the one who values freedom.
Reacting to a press event in March during which DeSantis told a group of school children to take off their masks, Crist said, “I believe in freedom. Whether you wear a mask is your right. When Governor DeSantis bullied these kids, he proved he doesn’t believe in freedom. He shows us who he really is.”
The tweet prompted a snarky response from DeSantis spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, who captioned Crist’s August tweet and asked him why he wants “to muzzle children.”
But even with a softer tone, Florida GOP Vice Chairman Cristian Ziegler says Crist is “out-of-touch.”
“Charlie Crist being ‘open’ to imposing mask mandates is one of the most out-of-touch positions Crist has ever taken, which is really saying something,” Ziegler told Fox News Digital. “Americans are flocking to Florida, and the Republican Party of Florida is dominating in voter registration due in large part to Governor Ron DeSantis fighting back and protecting us from ridiculous, anti-science mask mandates and COVID tyrants like Charlie Crist.”
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