(CNN) — To take on the difficult task of challenging Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall, Florida Democrats will go with someone familiar over someone new.

For the second time in eight years, Democratic voters will choose Charlie Crist as their gubernatorial candidate, according to CNN projections, choosing the seasoned veteran over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who was vying to become the state’s first female governor. Crist now has just 11 weeks to unite his party, energize the Democratic base and convince independent voters that the state needs a new direction.

The stakes are high for Democrats, and not just in Florida, where DeSantis has already pushed an aggressively conservative agenda and promised that a second term will bring more restrictions on abortion and fewer on guns. National Democrats are also looking to Crist to rein in DeSantis, one of the GOP’s most recognizable figures, ahead of an anticipated campaign for the White House in 2024.

“This guy wants to be president of the United States of America,” Crist said in his victory speech. “However, when we defeat him on November 8, that show will be over.”

The task will not be easy. DeSantis has amassed $132 million for the fall general election, a record sum for a non-self-financing gubernatorial candidate, and has galvanized the Republican base more than any Republican politician not named Donald Trump. His party has overtaken Democrats in registered voters in Florida for the first time. And it can boast a state economy that appears to be booming, with more people moving to the state than anywhere else in the country, record tourism numbers, and an unemployment rate of 2.7%, almost a point below the level federal.

However, Democrats have argued that the prosperity has not been shared by all. With some of the fastest rising home prices and rents in the country, Florida has become a paradise that many can no longer afford. A homeowners insurance crisis has threatened coverage for millions of homeowners just as hurricane season reaches its peak. LGBTQ Floridians say the DeSantis administration has made the state more hostile toward them, while some women say new abortion restrictions remove choice from their bodies and may force them to face medically risky pregnancies.

Crist’s argument against another four years of DeSantis is also based on Floridians yearning for a less divisive tone for their leader. Throughout the Democratic primary, Crist and Fried portrayed DeSantis as a bully and a despot who is much more focused on positioning himself to run for the White House than he is on running the nation’s third-largest state. Time and time again, they have pointed out that DeSantis has forced the other branches of state government to bend to his will, removing any check on his executive branch.

Earlier Tuesday, DeSantis predicted that he would face Crist in the general election. During a news conference in Tallahassee, he dismissed Crist as “a guy who’s been running for office for five decades, who votes with (Joe) Biden 100% of the time,” and made it clear that he intends to frame the race around his controversial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Crist, he said, “opposed every decision I made to keep this state open, to keep people’s rights, to respect their rights, to save jobs, to keep kids in school, to save businesses.”

Inside his guard group in St. Petersburg, Crist didn’t have to wait long for good news. When her campaign welcomed supporters into the Hilton conference room just after the polls closed at 7 pm, early voting results strongly suggested it would be a night without drama. The crowd erupted in applause as a large screen showed an overwhelmingly promising start to Crist’s count.

Earlier Tuesday, DeSantis predicted that he would face Crist in the general election. During a press conference in Tallahassee, he discredited Crist by describing him as “a guy who’s been running for office for five decades, who votes with (Joe) Biden 100% of the time,” and made it clear that he intends to frame the race around his controversial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Crist, he said, “opposed every decision I made to keep this state open, to keep people’s rights, to respect their rights, to save jobs, to keep kids in school, to save businesses.”

Inside his guard group in St. Petersburg, Crist didn’t have to wait long for good news. When her campaign welcomed supporters into the Hilton conference room just after the polls closed at 7:00 pm, early voting results strongly suggested it would be a night without drama. The crowd erupted in applause as a large screen showed an overwhelmingly promising start to Crist’s count.

Who is Charlie Christ?

primaries florida christ

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist speaks to the media before casting his vote in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Tuesday. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Crist is a former Republican governor of the Sunshine State who switched parties and now serves in Congress as a Democrat.

Crist was elected governor under the Republican Party in 2006 and then ran for Senate as an independent in 2010, losing to Republican Marco Rubio. Crist then ran for governor in 2014 as a Democrat, losing to now-Republican Sen. Rick Scott. Crist won his House seat as a Democrat in 2016.

Abortion emerged as a major issue in the Democratic primary, with Fried’s campaign attacking Crist’s history on the topic and Crist replying with a television ad. The two Democrats spent much of the race criticizing DeSantis.