Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

Democrats plan aggressive push for unity after Florida primary

TAMPA — This year the Florida Democratic Party is determined not to be the circular firing squad party.

Internal dissension and apathy have helped keep Democrats out of the Governor's Mansion for 16 years. So when the primary votes are counted tonight after a particularly low-key Democratic primary for governor, party leaders intend to push aggressively for unity.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Democratic front-runner Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and underdog Nan Rich of Broward County have agreed to appear together Thursday at unity rallies in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, along with both Democratic candidates for attorney general, George Sheldon and Perry Thurston. Assorted other party leaders are expected to be on hand, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who regularly annoyed Crist allies this year by hinting he might jump into the race for governor.

The rallies represent the party's most aggressive effort to heal divisions from a primary in years, as Democratic strategists understand they need as much enthusiasm as possible from the Democratic base if they hope to overcome the traditional turnout advantage Republicans enjoy in non-presidential elections.

"We want everybody's help. We need everybody's help," Crist said Monday, stopping at a campaign office in Tampa, part of a five-city, get-out-the-vote swing that ended in Fort Lauderdale.

Alex Sink had no serious primary rival before she barely lost to Rick Scott in 2010, but the primary between Jim Davis and Rod Smith in 2006 was so bitter that it took three weeks for former state Sen. Smith to publicly endorse the Tampa congressman. In 2002, Janet Reno did not even concede the primary to Bill McBride for a week because of problems counting the votes in South Florida.

Almost nobody expects similar suspense from this year's primary. Rich never managed to raise enough money to air any TV ads and Scott has been spending millions of dollars for months attacking Crist as if he already were the Democratic nominee.

Statewide, early voting has been light.

As of Monday, only 1.1 million pre-election day ballots had been cast — 73 percent by mail and almost 27 percent by in-person ballots during early voting, which ended Sunday.

If the total pre-election day vote accounts for about half of the total ballots cast, the primary is on pace to have a low turnout rate of nearly 19 percent. The average primary turnout in midterm elections has been 22 percent since 1998, when turnout was a paltry 17 percent.

"I take nothing for granted," Crist said, brushing off suggestions that his campaign will look weak if he fails to beat the cash-strapped former state Sen. Rich by a huge margin.

Rich continued campaigning doggedly despite the odds. In an email to supporters, she urged volunteers to help out on phone banks.

"I'm ready to give you four years of a governor committed to Democratic values, but I need you to give me a couple of hours today and tomorrow," she said in the message. "In just two hours of phone calls, you can have as much of an impact on the race as the mega donors paying for my opponents' negative advertising."

Rich has promised to support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and Broward County Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar said he has little doubt her supporters will get behind Crist should he win.

"Anyone making the comparison would realize that our Democratic nominee will be a lot better on his worst day for us than Rick Scott would be on his best day," Ceasar said.

The more valid concern, he said, is whether Gov. Scott will succeed in pushing down Democratic turnout by spending tens of millions of dollars on negative ads. Otherwise, the Democratic enthusiasm gap should be much less of a problem this year than prior years.

"We've had Jeb Bush and we had Charlie Crist, and they were both difficult to beat for various reasons," Ceasar said. "But Rick Scott is a much better target."

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected] Follow @adamsmithtimes.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18