Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kendrick Meek scrambles to solidify backing in Senate race

Up early Sunday for a 12-hour campaign marathon through South Florida, Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek said he saw three commercials for his deep-pocketed rival before he could even get out the door.

It's been that kind of hard-knocks campaign for Meek, who got into the race 18 months ago, before any other major candidate.

Who would have expected what happened next?

Marco Rubio became a Republican phenomenon, Gov. Charlie Crist reinvented himself as an independent, and a little-known Palm Beach billionaire named Jeff Greene became a Democratic contender.

A shoe-leather campaign that collected 125,000 voter signatures hasn't taken Meek farther than a distant third place in the polls, behind Crist and Rubio, and with Greene closing in.

So five weeks before the primary, the Miami congressman finds himself shoring up support in his own back yard. His seven stops on Sunday included a gospel music-infused church in Lauderdale Lakes, a Miami union hall, and heavily Democratic condominiums in Aventura, Sunrise and Deerfield Beach.

"All of a sudden, Kendrick had to pivot and ask for the support of people he thought he could have counted on," said Democratic fundraiser and developer Stephen Bittel, who came to Meek's appearance in Aventura to show his support.

Greene makes no apologies for his short-time record as a registered Democrat and full-time resident of Florida since 2008. He blew off chances to meet with gay, Hispanic, Haitian and student activists at Saturday's state party gathering in Hollywood and decided to drop by the black caucus at the last minute.

"We pick and choose certain caucuses," Greene said, adding that Democrats are ''welcoming me into the tent."

Even if they don't, Greene is undeterred. Only Meek was invited to address Friday's annual gathering of Democratic senators and donors in Nantucket, Mass., but Greene came anyway, as a donor. He brought his 145-foot yacht and sat in the front when it was Meek's turn to speak.

Greene did get a slot at Saturday's state party dinner and received applause when he said he would support whoever wins the Democratic nomination. Meek, who is typically known to give rambling speeches, gave a fiery address that brought some Democrats to their feet.

"You were sensational last night. That's the way we want you to talk all the time," former state Rep. Elaine Bloom of Miami Beach told Meek at the Aventura event. "Give 'em fire."

Meek and Greene refrained from attacking each other by name in front of the party faithful Saturday. But Meek didn't hold back in a harsh new mailing to voters, which says, "It's hard to be the worst of Wall Street, but Jeff Greene found a way."

Greene made hundreds of millions of dollars though an obscure investment called credit default swaps, which amounted to bets on widespread mortgage foreclosures. Greene has said he was protecting his real estate investments.

"Less than 24 hours after Democrats united at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Kendrick Meek resorted to vicious personal attacks against Jeff Greene to cover up for his own failed leadership," the Greene campaign said Sunday in response.

Since he got into the race shortly before the April 30 deadline, Greene has spent nearly $6 million of his own money. He has said he will spend whatever it takes to win.

"He feels he's qualified to be a senator because his checkbook is bigger," Meek said in Aventura.

But to some voters, Greene's business background is a strong selling point. He and Meek agree on most of the Democratic Party's agenda — supporting health care and Wall Street reform, opposing offshore oil drilling and limits on abortion — so their differences lie primarily in personality and experience.

The centerpiece of Greene's campaign in an election year that frowns on incumbency: He's not a politician.

But Crist may pose an even bigger threat to Meek. Hollywood activist Michael Gold said he'll back Meek in the primary, but he's still unsure whether he will vote for him over Crist in the Nov. 2 general election.

Meek's challenge is that in the nation's fourth-largest state, television rules. He has about $4 million in the bank, which would cover only about three weeks of solid, statewide advertising.

"I want to see myself on television too, believe me, and we're going to get there," he said Sunday. "I really want Aug. 24 to hurry up and get here so we can move on."

Kendrick Meek scrambles to solidify backing in Senate race 07/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]