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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nan Rich brings campaign to Charlie Crist's turf



Former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, brought her busy but little-known gubernatorial campaign to Charlie Crist's hometown Wednesday, saying little of her prospective Democratic competitor except that she is the one with the proven liberal track record.

"I am a lifelong Democrat," she told the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club on Wednesday in St. Petersburg. "I have credentials to prove it."

She acknowledged how challenging it is to raise campaign cash as donors hold out for more high-profile candidates who may get in the race. Rich has raised $160,000 and spent $101,000 since announcing her candidacy last year, and she is battling low statewide name recognition, last polled at 12 percent. Still, she pushed back on the notion she's running an invisible campaign.

She has not spoken to Crist about entering the race, but has checked in with Alex Sink, the former CFO who is undecided about a redo of her 2010 gubernatorial bid. Rich supported Sink then but hopes to remain the only female candidate in the race.

"Obviously I am trying to figure out what she is doing," Rich said. "The bottom line for me is I've been in this a year, and I'm not leaving the race."

Rich told an audience of about 50 that Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Legislature were wrong to reject millions in federal grants since 2011, from $2.4 billion for high-speed rail to a $51 billion Medicaid expansion under the new health care law. Scott changed his mind and called for accepting Medicaid money on a three-year basis, but House Speaker Will Weatherford led the charge to reject it. A June poll found Scott beating Rich by six points.

“He never sat down and spoke to him,” she said of Scott. “They need to work together.”

After decrying the contentious parent trigger bill, she veered from her stump speech to attack Scott's educational summit, which was wrapping its third and final day in Clearwater as she spoke. She called it "a farce."

"There are no parents, no parent groups represented as stakeholders," she said. "It's a stacked deck, as far as I'm concerned."

While Scott's guest list included business leaders, reps from charter school groups and the head of the Sarasota County Republican party, it also included parents such as Eileen Segal of Florida PTA, parent Linda Kearschner, and Laura Zorc, head of Florida Parents Against Common Core.

A Q&A segment turned to the "stand your ground" law, which Rich voted for in 2005 (along with the rest of the Senate). Rich said she and other Democrats who thought it was good policy then now recognize it needs tweaking.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 4:55pm]


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