While attending a holiday party at the White House on Friday evening Crist, 57, signed official paperwork to make the party switch.
“I’ve had friends for years tell me, ‘You know Charlie, you’re a Democrat and you don’t know it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times by telephone interview after the party.
President Obama offered him a “fist-bump” after learning of the switch, the newspaper reports.
Crist was a Republican candidate when he was elected state senator in 1992, and remained with the GOP when elected Florida’s Education Commissioner in 2000, attorney general in 2002, and governor in 2006.
He ran on the GOP ticket for U.S. Senate in 2010, but exited before the primary phase due to sharp competition from Marco Rubio. Crist continued his campaign as an independent, but lost to Rubio in the general election.
The switch didn’t occur because of any change in Crist, but changes in the conservative movement. While he still holds true to conservative principles of gun rights and low taxes, Crist also supports education and civil rights – issues he finds the GOP to have neglected.
Speaking at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he said “I didn’t leave the Republican Party; it left me.”
Crist had more succinctly criticized the GOP in his August endorsement of Obama, stating “an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people.”
Crist is expected to again run for governor in 2014.