TAMPA — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Nan Rich grouped herself with three former governors Friday who each had served as state senators before launching bids for the highest state office.
Reubin Askew, Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham would become three of the state's finest governors, she told members of the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa on Friday. And, heck, Graham had only 3 percent name recognition when his campaign launched.
"I'm glad to say mine is up to 12 percent," Rich said.
Rich is the main declared Democratic candidate with name recognition for the 2014 gubernatorial race, but the party has all but ignored her as it awaits word on whether former Gov. Charlie Crist, 2010 candidate Alex Sink and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will run.
Rich offered self-effacing remarks Friday about getting passed over for speaking time at the state party's annual fundraiser in Hollywood last week. No, she responded to a joke question, she would not be hiring state Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry as a campaign consultant, despite all the attention he has drawn to Democrats ignoring her.
Responding to another question about being the only major prospective Democratic candidate trailing Gov. Rick Scott in a recent poll, she noted that it was only by 6 percent and has remained steady.
"I'm not discouraged by that," Rich said. "I was actually amazed I was only six points down. He is the governor."
Rich said she is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act and criticized state legislators for refusing $51 billion in federal money for Medicaid expansion.
She said she is a supporter of public education and opposes recurring legislation that could turn charter schools over to for-profit operators. And she spoke in favor of women's reproductive rights.
Club members awarded their Garfield award for toughest question to Adam Bantner II, a DUI and criminal defense lawyer, who called himself an unabashed conservative. He asked Rich how she could offer such a top down campaign platform.
To the contrary, Rich said she favors local control when it comes to schools over orders from Tallahassee about education. And Obamacare is now the law of the land, and the Supreme Court has said so.
"As governor, I would swear on the Bible to uphold the law," Rich said.
She joked afterward that she thought a question, however predictable, from member Al Fox deserved the award. He asked her views on opening relations with Cuba — which Fox strongly advocates — but in a way that sought to force her to link or distance herself with or from other Democratic politicians. Rich was careful in her answer.
Clearly, she said, the lack of relations between the United States and Cuba for the past 51 years has not gotten results. Further, the United States does have relations with other countries known for human-rights abuses, such as China.
"I think it's time to try a new tack and begin to have a dialogue," Rich said.