MIAMI BEACH – Shaking up an already volatile election cycle in Florida, Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville said Saturday she is seriously looking at jumping into the Senate race.
Her entry would mean two of Florida's most popular African-American members of Congress — Brown and Kendrick Meek of Miami — vying for the nomination to take on either Gov. Charlie Crist or former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the 2010 general election.
"I just think the state needs more than someone who's there to talk a great game, smile and take pictures, but the key is to deliver for the people of Florida," the 62-year-old Brown, a 17-year-veteran of the U.S. House, told the St. Petersburg Times Saturday.
Meek, 42, already has raised more than $1.5 million for his Senate campaign and picked up major endorsements, from former President Bill Clinton to major labor groups. But Brown said she has more experience to offer and that she commissioned a statewide poll that showed her leading Meek and other Democrats looking at the Senate race.
She is opening an exploratory campaign account to gauge support among donors and voters, she said, and will make a decision about the Senate within a few weeks.
"It's a free country. Anybody can run for any office they want to," said Meek, stressing that Brown's entry into the race would have no impact on his campaign.
State Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman acknowledged the party would prefer to avoid primaries in expensive statewide campaigns, and stressed that Brown at this point is only exploring a Senate bid, not launching one. Thurman noted that Meek is already off to a strong start.
Indeed, at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising weekend in Miami Beach, the Fontainebleau hotel was filled with "Meek for Senate" signs and stickers. The other major Democrat who was in that race, state Sen. Dan Gelber, has dropped out and is considering running for state attorney general.
Brown's overwhelmingly Democratic district sprawls from Jacksonville to Orlando to Gainesville. The congresswoman said she has told potential candidates for her seat to "keep your powder dry" while she explores whether to jump into the Senate race.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com or (727)893-8241.