Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced just before 6 p.m. in front of a large St. Petersburg crowd that he has dropped out of the Republican Party in his bid for U.S. Senate.

Republican Marco Rubio will now be the official Republican Candidate for the senate race. Kendrick Meek will run as the Democratic candidate.

Crist faced fierce opposition from core members of the Republican party after hugging President Barack Obama and campaigning for the president’s federal stimulus package.

During his speech announcing his Independent run, Crist said, “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I know we’re doing the right thing.

He acknowledged it will be a tough fight.

“After this speech ends, I don’t have either party helping me,” Crist said. “But I need you. I need you the people more than ever. I’m counting on you and I believe in you.”

During a debate on the Fox News Channel, Crist told host Chris Wallace that he would not run as an independent. Republican opponent Marco Rubio has suggested, on his Facebook page, that the flip means Crist can’t be trusted.

Crist insisted though, “It’s the right thing for Florida. It’s the right thing for America.”