Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist talks to Florida Keys Democrats during a campaign stop May 9 at Sally O’Brien’s Irish pub. MANDY MILES / Weekly Keys

Charlie Crist ordered a Miller Lite and rolled up his sleeves at a Key West bar, enlisting local voters in his effort to “get rid of the clown we have now” in the governor’s office.

“I’m here to get rid of him for you,” Crist told a group of Florida Keys Democrats at Sally O’Brien’s Irish pub on May 9.

Former Florida Governor (2007-2011) and current U.S. Representative is running as a Democrat to defeat Republican incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis, a right-wing frontrunner, presumptive presidential candidate in years to come and a formidable opponent outgoing.

“What did he do? He took away women’s right to choose. He shamed LGBT children,” Crist said in Key West. That? He raided the Sadowski Fund (created to finance affordable housing. And why? Because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care.

“You don’t have to be a Democrat to realize he’s come this far. He’s just gone,” Crist said. red for 2024 and he completely took his eyes off the Florida ball. We’re one-third Republican, one-third Democrat, one-third Independent. We’re purple. But he lost sight of it because he’s drunk on “Being in the White House. Perfect. Let him down those rabbit holes. It’s fun how you-know-what to run against that stupid guy.”

Crist stressed Monday that he was running against DeSantis, not the other Democrats he needed to defeat in the Aug. 23 primary to secure his party’s nomination.

“They are good people; they are friends of mine, but we have to win,” Crist said.

The Democrats’ main field includes Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and State Senator Annette Taddeo, who are barred from campaigning during the two-month session of the legislature.

Launching his gubernatorial campaign a year ago in May 2021, Crist said he wanted bridge the rift that divides Floridians and restore decency and civility to state government.

“Florida has a governor who is only focused on his future, not yours,” Crist said at the May 2021 press conference announcing his campaign. “He doesn’t care, and unless you can write him a campaign check, you don’t exist. … Unlike this governor and the Republican leadership of Tallahassee, we will listen to our fellow Floridans. … You deserve jobs you can live on, affordable housing, and equal justice.

Asked about Crist’s 2021 candidacy, DeSantis jokingly asked, “Which party? Are we even sure? The Tampa Bay Times reported in May 2021.

After being elected governor as a Republican, Crist became a Democrat in 2012, when he was alienated by Republicans for greeting newly installed President Barack Obama with a bipartisan hug. He ran for governor again in 2014, this time as a Democrat, but lost by one percentage point to Republican Rick Scott.