LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Charlie Crist said he wanted to float the idea of a run for Florida governor before a packed room of Democrats.
He got his wish Friday at the Fete Ballroom on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.
Although Crist didn't succumb to the cheers and affection from the audience of 305 and announce his candidacy, the former Republican governor of Florida left the door wide open at the Annual Manatee County Democratic Awards Dinner, Dance and Silent Auction.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I love Florida and I know you love Florida and we are in an important time in history," Crist told the crowd.
Crist was a Republican governor of Florida from 2006-2010 and lost a race in 2010 for the U.S. Senate as an Independent.
He campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2012 and late last year changed his party registration to Democrat.
Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) introduced Crist on Friday by saying, "Please put your hands together and welcome our next gov I mean Charlie Crist."
Crist got a standing ovation as he came to the po
Crist let it be known that he was thrilled to be a Democrat. He lashed out at his former party, telling a story about how President Obama wanted to come to Fort Myers in 2008 after he got elected to talk about his economic recovery plan.
"I told him we would be honored to have him," Crist said. "As soon as I made that decision, I heard from my Republican friends. 'What are you doing?' they said. I said, 'I am going to see the president of the United States of America.' And not only did I go, but he asked me to introduce him and I said it would be an honor. So there I am standing on the podium. I introduced him and guess what, we hugged and I am proud of that. But my former party took so much umbrage to that hug, you couldn't imagine."
Crist said Obama cares about people. He said he was excited to be joining, "the people's party." The enthusiastic crowd stood again and cheered.
"We are going to make Manatee blue for you," an excited Crist supporter yelled out referring to Manatee County's long Republican lock.
Crist praised the ballroom, which was filled with a diverse array of people.
"You are a party that welcomes people," Crist said. "Look at how you have welcomed me tonight. No matter what color, what agenda, everyone is welcome. That is why the president won. America said enough, we had enough."
Crist made his views clear on immigration.
He told a story of a Greek immigrant who had a dream. That immigrant was his grandfather.
"I believe that people who have a dream should be able to come to a place called America," Crist said. "The Dream Act is the right thing to do."
Crist seemed to have the crowd won over before he said one word Friday.
"I am glad he is with us," said Linda Crawford, one of six people honored by the Manatee Democrats for their dedication, including Nancy Hartley, Carol Graves, Randy Coleman, Mary Bass and Larry Jennis.
"He has a lot of great ideas and we welcome him completely," Crawford added.
Luz Corcuera, program director for Healthy Start Manatee, said something in 2004 galvanized her positive feelings about Crist.
"In 2004, before he was elected governor, Charlie came to the Palmetto Youth Center to be there when I had won the Humanity Award for Inter-racial Harmony," Corcuera said. "I talked to him and I said, 'You have to promise me you will never cut mom and baby programs.' He nodded. But I said, 'Look at me in the eye and promise.' He looked and me in the eye and said, 'I will never cut mom and baby programs.' When he became governor, he never did cut those programs. I had to come tonight to support him."