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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Keith qualifies for Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Florida



The first major party candidate to launch a 2016 campaign for Florida's U.S. Senate seat was among the last to get on the ballot ahead of Friday's noon deadline.

Labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith, a Democrat from Miami, dropped off her candidate oath and her $10,440 check at about 10:15 this morning at the Florida Division of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Keith first launched her U.S. Senate campaign in November 2014 and has been campaigning full-time across the state. But she's struggled to gain name recognition and campaign funds in the Democratic primary against U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and Alan Grayson, of Orlando.

The party establishment -- and its donors -- strongly backs Murphy, and Grayson has support among progressives in the party. Keith is painting herself as an alternative who, she says, can "energize voters to the polls" and offer something "new, outsider, fresh, solutions-oriented" that voters in this election cycle want.

"Recent revelations have shown some of the very significant weaknesses in my opponents," Keith said Friday, after she filed her paperwork. "This season, more than any, voters are really looking for substance, authenticity and relatability -- and I think, by far, I'm the candidate who satisfies those needs the best."

Both Murphy and Grayson have vulnerabilities.

Grayson has an active congressional ethics investigation against him into once-offshore hedge funds he operated out of the Cayman Islands while in office. There's been no new developments on that ethics case since early April, when the Office of Congressional Ethics released its findings that Grayson might have violated ethics rules and federal laws. It's up to the U.S. House Ethics Committee to continue investigating, if it chooses to.

Meanwhile, Murphy -- who is viewed as the frontrunner in the primary -- has been plagued for the past month by media investigations exposing embellishments and contradictions in his professional and academic credentials. That was capped off most recently by a blistering two-part report this week by Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami, which garnered national attention. The CBS Miami investigation built off and echoed previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida.

Some questioned whether Keith would even qualify for the race this week, because she had just $13,400 in the bank, as of March 31 (the end of the last campaign finance period).

"I have a mission and a purpose, and I stay focused on what I'm doing," Keith said. "Naysayers exist in every industry and in every endeavor, so you just learn overtime that that's just not something you need to pay much attention to."

Also this week, two other Democrats joined the primary race and qualified for the ballot: Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando.

*This post has been updated.

[Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2016 7:06pm]


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