Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, will defeat Republican Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th District, The Associated Press projects.
Crist led Jolly 52 percent to 48 percent with nearly 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Jolly was the most vulnerable incumbent on Roll Call’s top 10 list of endangered House members. He spent much of the past year running for the Senate, but dropped out of the GOP primary after Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.
Jolly then decided to run for re-election in his district, which had become much more Democratic in redistricting. The reconfigured district now includes most of Pinellas County in the Tampa Bay area, including several parts of St. Petersburg.
Making a pledge not to directly solicit campaign contributions, Jolly struggled with fundraising. He’s no friend of the National Republican Congressional Committee and couldn’t count on outside GOP support to help him.
Over the course of the fall, though, Jolly appeared less vulnerable after deciding to run for re-election, which forced Democrats to keep spending in the district. Coming into Election Day, the race was rated Leans Democratic by The Rothenberg & Gonzalez Political Report/Roll Call.
Under the old district lines, Jolly won a special election in 2014, after former GOP Rep. C.W. Bill Young passed away. He narrowly defeated former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink by 2 points.
Crist has emerged as a centrist Democratic voice and an advocate for pragmatic deals like those he embraced in Florida as a Republican governor, attorney general and state legislator over two decades.
He brushes aside Republican charges of opportunism, saying that he wants to avert gridlock and encourage “more civility to tackle issues like the rising cost of health care, gun violence, failing schools, and protecting our environment.”
As governor, Crist embraced President Barack Obama in February 2009 in support of economic stimulus funding. The gesture sparked a backlash, culminating in Crist’s exit from the GOP during an unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign, in which he ended up running as an independent and finished second to Rubio.
With a background in criminal justice, Crist has eyes on a seat on the House Judiciary Committee. He has also voiced an interest in panels dealing with environmental, transportation and veterans issues.
Crist became a Democrat in 2012 and endorsed Obama for re-election. He was defeated in 2014 by GOP Gov. Rick Scott in a bid for his old job.
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