KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.—Florida’s Republican-led legislature will gather Tuesday on the order of Gov. Charlie Crist—and then is expected to quickly refuse his call for a state-constitution ban on offshore oil drilling in Florida waters.
While no real legislative action seems likely to come of the special session, the showdown has become a signal event in Mr. Crist’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and in his transformation from a rising Republican star to a political free agent.
Nearly three months after losing his Republican allies and campaign staff by leaving his party, Mr. Crist has rebuilt his political machinery and gained a footing among many general-election voters as he runs as an independent. One reason: He has used the Republican-led state legislature as a conservative foil to increase his appeal among centrist and Democratic voters.
Mr. Crist has shored up some conservative positions, such as his support for gun rights, while shifting to the left on core issues like abortion, education and gay rights. And he has successfully courted top Democrats—including some with close ties to President Barack Obama and the White House—to work on his campaign, even though two Democrats are making serious bids for the Senate seat.
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