Charlie Crist was born in 1956 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, but his family soon settled in St. Petersburg. He played football at Wake Forest University before transferring and receiving his undergraduate degree from Florida State in 1978, where he served as student body vice president. Crist then earned his law degree from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama.
Crist served as general counsel for the minor league division of the Baseball Commissioner’s Office. He began his government service as state director for U.S. Senator Connie Mack before returning to the private practice of law with the Tampa firm of Wood and Crist. In 1992, Crist won a seat in the Florida Senate. After he completed his Senate service, Governor Jeb Bush appointed him Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. In 2000, he won a special election and became Florida’s last elected Commissioner of Education. Crist’s was elected Florida Attorney General in 2002, becoming Florida’s first elected Republican Attorney General. He was elected Governor in 2006. As governor, Crist maintained conservative positions on capital punishment and gun rights. At the same time, he was a strong advocate of environmental protection, opposing offshore oil drilling, supporting the state purchase of land for conservation, and seeking the adoption of strict air pollution standards, including a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. He also pursued health care reform, signing legislation to expand low-income coverage and establish public and private insurance options in Florida.
In 2010, Crist opted to run for a U.S. Senate seat independent of political affiliation, losing the election to Republican Marco Rubio.