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Florida Democrats rally around Charlie Crist for governor

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Democrats launched a "unity tour" on Thursday to close ranks around Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of the state who is running as the Democratic candidate in this year's election.

Crist shared hugs and a kiss with the opponent that he resoundingly defeated in Tuesday's primaries, former state legislator Nan Rich, who introduced him as "the man who will lead the Democratic ticket to victory in November."

"This kind of unity doesn't ordinarily happen in the Democratic Party. Well, it’s a new day," Crist said at an event in Orlando. Crist is running against Republican Governor Rick Scott, who easily cruised to primary victory

Calling themselves the "people's team," the tour made stops in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, where Crist was joined on stage by a bevy of big-name Democrats, including Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Crist's running mate, Annette Taddeo, among others. 

Wasserman Schultz tweeted enthusiastically: "Floridians can agree that there's only one candidate for Gov that shares their interest and that's @CharlieCrist!"

For Crist, who governed Florida as a Republican from 2007 to 2011 and now wants the job back under a different party label, the display was designed to quell any lingering doubts about whether he would be embraced by Democrats.

His resounding primary victory was accompanied by dismal voter turnout, with voters in the Democratic stronghold in south Florida showing particularly little enthusiasm for the election.

Democrats say they are now rallying around a race that polls show to be in a virtual tie. Crist urged Democrats to join him in winning back the governor's mansion.

"In 68 days you, me, and Florida are going to be - Scott free."

(Writing by Letitia Stein, editing by David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)

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