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Outgoing Fla. Gov. Crist worries about divisions

ST. PETERSBURG – Outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who steps down in January after losing an independent bid for the U.S. Senate, says he is concerned that political divisions are preventing elected officials of both parties from working together on the nation’s problems.

“It’s been a real polarization and I think it’s unfortunate for the country. I’m concerned about consensus and common ground being able to be found to help America move forward,” Crist said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s fine to be proud of being a Republican and proud of being a Democrat, but not to the extent that you don’t work together for the betterment of the country as a whole.”

He said he plans to keep his voter registration as independent, and that he hopes Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott and the Legislature don’t just think about the GOP over the next four years.

“Even though the Democrats are in the minority – significant minority – in both the House and the Senate, there still are more registered Democrats in our state than there are Republicans and independents, so I think they need to take that into account, and I’m sure that they will. I hope so, for Florida’s sake,” Crist said.

Crist said he has no regrets about running for the Senate instead of seeking re-election, or about leaving the Republican Party during that campaign.

“I think it was the right thing to do at the time or I wouldn’t have done it. And the reason I did it was because I felt the country needed some Florida common sense,” Crist said.

Crist finished second in a three-way race to Republican Marco Rubio, a conservative candidate with tea party support. Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek also ran.

“It was the roller coaster of my life. Think about it, you decide not to run for re-election, you run for the U.S. Senate and it’s all humming along just fine and then it becomes very, very difficult – that’s not a lot of fun. Then going independent,” Crist said.

Crist steps down Jan. 4. He said he plans to seek a job outside of government and that he isn’t thinking yet about a return to politics.

“I’m entering a new chapter pretty quickly now, and I’m looking forward to the private sector,” Crist said. “I’ve been very blessed to have a number of offers, and it’s very gratifying.”