Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says he has signed papers to change his voter registration to Democratic, a likely first step toward mounting a campaign for office -- possibly for governor in 2014 -- as a Democrat.
Crist, who attended a holiday party at the White House with his wife, Carole, on Friday night, sent out a tweet from the event saying, "Proud to join the Democratic Party in the home of the President, @Barack Obama!"
Crist tweeted a photo of himself, holding a voter registration form, with Carole at the White House party.
Crist, a lifelong Republican elected governor in 2006, gradually became alienated from his former political party during his term as governor because of policies and initiatives of his that conservatives disagreed with.
In 2010, he chose to run for the Senate instead of running for re-election as governor, a decision that upset Republican plans for the 2010 election and angered Republicans further.
Taking advantage of that opening, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami ran against Crist in a primary for the Senate.
When it became clear Rubio would win the Republican primary, Crist left the GOP and finished the race as an independent, losing to Rubio.
He has been an independent since then but became the highest-profile campaigner for Obama in Florida during the 2012 presidential campaign.
Crist has been coy about his future political plans but is widely expected to run for governor in 2014.
Republicans have blasted Crist as a political chameleon, willing to adopt any coloration that suits his ambition.
Democrats, meanwhile, are ambivalent about whether to accept him as one of their own, or possibly as the leader of their party.
These days, Crist says he has always been "a populist."
"I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the people and the challenges that they face," he said in a Tribune interview last week. "I try to be somebody who tries to have a compassionate heart and looks out for the people."
In that interview, he said some of the hard-line conservative stances he took in the past were mistakes.
"I was trying to be a good team player," he said of past stances, including calling for former President Bill Clinton's resignation during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998; seeking a major expansion of private school tuition vouchers and joining a Republican attack on the teacher's union while he was education commissioner in 2001, and signing the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge in 2009.
If Crist runs for governor as a Democrat, one of his main competitors is likely to be Alex Sink of Tampa, who narrowly lost to Rick Scott in 2010.
Neither Sink nor Crist could be reached for comment Friday night.
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