ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – US Representative Charlie Crist believes in the automatic restoration of rights for convicted felons as part of his proposed justice reform in his campaign for Florida governor, during a roundtable in Saint Marks AME Church in Orlando at noon on Monday, as part of his Justice For All policy tour.
Crist also won the support of Chris King, former 2018 gubernatorial candidate that later joined Andrew Gillum’s formula to take on Ron DeSantis. Gillum and King lost by 0.4% of the votes.
“(King) is a man of great integrity, a dedicated public servant,” Crist said. “I’m honored to receive this support.”
“This was a decision I made with my head and my heart. I think Charlie is an incredibly kind person, and I think that is going to be incredibly important for the next governor of Florida. I think he is incredibly hard-working, and there is a lot of hard work ahead to change Florida. (…) I’ve run against the forces of DeSantis and (Donald) Trump and they’re tough, and they’re reckless and they can be mean, but I believe Charlie is the type of candidate that has all the skills and gifts and name identification across the state that can take a message of hope and healing and take Florida in another direction.”
– Chris King, 2018 candidate for Florida Governor
King decided to support Crist over Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who faces Crist in the primaries, because he considers Crist not only able to win but to transform Florida.
“One reason why I supported Charlie is because he is dedicated… to be a champion for communities of color, to bringing justice across Florida. That is not who Ron DeSantis is, or has ever been. It’s why restoration issues, gun issues, mean so much. I believe Crist is going to be a champion for inclusion, equity, and justice for all,” King added.
Crist believes in the automatic restoration of rights for felons who have completed their sentence. During his term as governor of Florida 155,000 felons had their rights restored. “I’m probably more proud of that than I am of anything,” he said.
The announcement came the same day activist Desmond Meade got his rights restored.
He remembered that he was asked by a reporter during the 2007 campaign as a Republican, and after expressing his support he received many calls from GOP members criticizing his decision.
“I said that it all came down to one word: forgiveness. I believed in forgiveness then and I believe in forgiveness now,” Crist said.
The roundtable included State Attorney Monique Worrell, candidate for City Council Nicolette Springer, activists with the Florida Rights Restoration Council, and City Commissioners Bakari Burns and Regina Hill.
Hill reminded everyone that she was a convicted felon, having “bounced around” after serving in the military. Her records made it difficult to find a job or a house. “I was able to turn it around because there was a good Republican named Charlie Crist,” she said. “Thank God for being in that number, that Charlie Crist automatically restored my rights. Now the governor that came after him (Rick Scott) turned some of those automatic rights back, but thank God that I wasn’t turned back, and I was able to become a nurse for 25 years and be able to provide for my family.”
“All you need is one champion, one person that says yes,”, she added. “One person that says, no matter what your past is, we want to help your present.”
Worell reminded everyone that “we have to deal with the reality that our system is not fair and just, that our system treats people differently, that sometimes those differences are about race, are about gender, are about culture, but none of those things should dictate how those people should be treated within the criminal legal system.”
Worell said that the injustices she saw in the system were the reason she ran for office in the first place. She expressed her frustration on the “misappropriation of criminal justice reform and how it has been utilized as a talking point to bring inflammatory [views] towards criminal justice reform movement and the anti-police movement.”
“Those two are not one and the same and should not be discussed in the same context because it is perfectly aligned to want criminal justice reform and support law enforcement,” she said.
She pointed out that the United States has increased its incarceration rates by 300% but “has not eliminated crime.” “If incarceration is not the solution, then the solution is people,” she said.
View photos below.