FORT PIERCE — Supporters packed Swift Grill Monday as gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist made a brief campaign stop before the election Tuesday, urging people to vote, and taking a few jabs at the incumbent.
Several dozen people jammed the inside of the eatery on U.S. 1 north of downtown Fort Pierce as Crist, accompanied by his fiancée, spoke for less than 10 minutes.
“St. Lucie means the light,” he said. “Well, I’ve seen the light and it’s victory tomorrow (Tuesday) night.”
A Democrat, Crist appeared two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke with other Republican leaders at a rally in the Tradition community in Port St. Lucie.
Crist, who began his address about 2:20 p.m., said a woman’s right to choose is on the ballot, and it’s critical in the election.
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“The notion that our governor would want to take away the right to choose from women all across Florida is unconscionable,” Crist said.
Some of his remarks elicited boos and cheers, and he said Florida no longer is affordable.
“If you try to buy a house, if you try to rent an apartment, it’s next to impossible,” he said. “People have to work two, three jobs just to pay for rent. That’s not right.”
He criticized DeSantis, saying DeSantis “doesn’t care about our Florida anymore. If he ever did.”
Crist said he’s always “had your back.”
He invited Swift Grill owner Vlad Bradescu up for a few words, and said Bradescu came here from Romania.
Crist said his own grandfather immigrated from Cyprus, his grandmother from Lebanon.
“What did our governor do to people who are trying to escape horrible places?” Crist said. “He stuck them on a plane and flew them up to the northern part of our country … Is that how you treat your fellow human beings?”
In September, DeSantis orchestrated a pair of flights carrying 48 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Crist’s appearance Monday came two weeks after the only gubernatorial debate between himself and DeSantis, which also was held locally — at the Sunrise Theatre in downtown Fort Pierce about a mile from Swift Grill.
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Crist mentioned the debate, and said DeSantis doesn’t like to answer questions from the media or his opponent.
“He doesn’t have the temperament to be a governor or a president or a county commissioner or a dog catcher,” Crist said. “And after tomorrow (Tuesday) night, he’ll be none of the above.”
Poll results have shown DeSantis’ lead over Crist growing as the election draws near.
Crist spoke after remarks from Tobi Schelin, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of St. Lucie County, and St. Lucie County Commission Chair Sean Mitchell.
Schelin thanked activists in the county for their work.
“Choice, not chance, is what determines destiny,” Schelin said.
Before Crist arrived, a number of supporters waved signs along U.S. 1.
Sitting at a picnic table outside Swift Grill before Crist’s arrival was Pearl Liverpool, 66, who learned about the Crist appearance on Saturday. She said there is anxiety in the air.
“I think it’s important to keep the Democrats encouraged and to come together and collaborate, to hold each other up at this moment in the election,” said Liverpool, of Fort Pierce. “It’s just too important.”