Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida said on Sunday that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking to appeal to a "hard right, toothless crowd."
Crist said that his young niece got COVID-19 shortly after going to school last August and that her 2-month-old sister also got coronavirus.
DeSantis had sought to ensure that parents had the authority to determine whether their child would wear a face mask in school.
Crist said that DeSantis seeks to get "political points with the red meat, hard right, toothless crowd," and that the governor's "actions have consequences on Florida families."
"Charlie was referring to the toothless, spineless crowd that aids and abets DeSantis's crusade to hurt, rather than help Floridians - the legislators, lobbyists, and special interests who bend to his whims and only care about delivering red meat for their base," Crist press secretary Samantha Ramirez said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "To imply that he meant anything else is nonsense."
Crist, who previously served as the governor of Florida from early 2007 until early 2011, is competing in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in a bid to go head to head against DeSantis during the 2022 election contest.
Crist was a Republican when he won the governor's race in 2006, but he lost a 2010 U.S. Senate bid while running as an independent. He ran for Florida governor as a Democrat in 2014 but lost to incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) has endorsed Crist as he takes another shot at the Florida governorship.
"He'll be a champion for women's reproductive rights, create opportunities for small business owners, and always show empathy and compassion for our working families. It's a stark contrast to the current governor. Florida, you deserve better," Pelosi said in a video.
Crist has declared that he will veto any legislation that imposes abortion restrictions.
DeSantis is seeking re-election this year — the Republican governor's popularity on the political right and his incumbent status will likely make defeating him a very difficult task for whichever Democrat ends up facing him in the general election.