Charlie Crist returned to the campaign trail on Saturday in Pensacola running for Governor as a Democrat. The visit began at the Vinyl Music Hall with a campaign styled presentation by Crist focused on his commitment to Northwest Florida as he shouted with exuberance, “I am not giving up on any part of the state”.  Loud cheers went up from the very diverse crowd of attorneys, business owners, labor union representatives, civil rights and community activists.   Following the rally at the Vinyl the former governor attended a campaign fund raiser and spent the night in Pensacola.

Crist continued his swing through Pensacola on Sunday morning by visiting area African- American churches accompanied by Escambia County Commission Chair Lumon May, Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) Board Member Jerome Watson, Pensacola Escambia Development Commission (PEDC) Board Member Clorissti Mitchell.  During the visit to Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church, Pastor Bernard C. Yates recognized “the former Governor of the State of Florida” in a front pew and asked him to say a few words.  The congregation gave Crist a standing ovation as he received the microphone from Pastor Yates.  Crist thanked the pastor for recognizing him and the congregation for their applause.  He spoke of how he was known as the “People’s Governor” when he first ran and how he orchestrated the restoration of the right to vote for felons with the support of the state clemency board. Crist stated, “I learned about forgiveness from my parents and God,” as he pointed up.  “I am running as a Democrat this time because I have seen the light!”  The former governor remained for a prayer with the congregation and greeted supporters as he departed.

At Greater Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Lonnie D. Wesley III acknowledged the presence of Charlie Crist and thanked him for the assistance he provided the church after the tornado which struck the church and its day care center/pre-school in October 2007. Crist also joined the congregation at Greater Little Rock in prayer.  According to Commissioner May, Crist also visited St. John Divine Missionary Baptist Church, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Union Missionary Baptist Church, Englewood Missionary Baptist Church, and Bethel AME Church.

Charlie Crist served as the 44th Governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. He began his political career as a Republican, serving in the Florida Senate from 1993 to 1999, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1998 and then serving as Florida Education Commissioner from 2001 to 2003 and Florida Attorney General from 2003 to 2007 before being elected Governor in 2006. Under Crist, ex-offenders convicted of less serious offenses could regain their rights without a hearing, while those convicted of crimes such as murder required a more thorough investigation and a hearing. Crist wrote in a Miami Herald opinion article, “Some who favor the current system argue that restoring civil rights is somehow ”weak on crime,” as if restoring the right to vote, to serve on a jury or to work lessens the punishment or encourages a person to commit new crimes. In fact, the opposite should be true. Giving a person a meaningful way to re-enter society, make a living and participate in our democracy will encourage good behavior.”

Repulican Attorney General Pam Bondi made the case that the process was too easy for released felons The Attorney General, Governor Rick Scott and the rest of the Cabinet ended the process Crist passed and set a minimum of a five-year waiting period.

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