ORLANDO — Florida Democrats promised Thursday to win the races for governor and attorney general through grass roots efforts, even if they are at a fundraising disadvantage.
The Democratic candidates for Florida's top offices said at a unity rally in Orlando that challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi won't be easy.
But they say they're up to the task, even though some political experts have speculated that Scott and his supporters could spend as much as $100 million on the gubernatorial campaign.
"No matter how much money they spend, they will never have our grass roots," Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson said. "Together we know we can win. We've done it before and will do it again if we stand united and knock on every last door and make every last phone call."
Speaking on behalf of the state's Republicans outside the union hall where the Democrats gathered, Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel said the party has more than money when it comes to campaigning.
"Republicans get out and work and walk. As evidence, look at the last (gubernatorial) election," Stargel said. "We had more Republicans who got out and voted when there's more registered Democrats. Republicans are about grass roots as well. It's not about the money. It's about the message."
As part of the show of unity, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist was introduced by state Sen. Nan Rich, whom he defeated in Tuesday's primary election. Democratic attorney general candidate George Sheldon was introduced by state Rep. Perry Thurston, whom Sheldon defeated during the Democratic primary. A second rally was held in Fort Lauderdale.
Also attending the unity rally were U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Crist running mate Annette Taddeo and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz acknowledged Crist's past as a Republican governor but even then, she said, Democratic lawmakers were able to work with Crist because "at the end of the day, he was going to do what he thought was right for Florida's families."
"I'll admit there were times when I worked against him when he was governor," Wasserman Schultz said. "But there were also times when we worked together … That's not the case with Rick Scott."
Wasserman Schultz faulted Scott for rejecting funding for high-speed rail, Medicaid expansion and for limiting the number of early-voting days.
Rich said she wanted to prove wrong the old Will Rogers quip, "I'm not a member of any organized party. I am a Democrat." She said unequivocally that Crist had her support.
"This is probably one of the earliest stages ever to unite the party," Rich said. "We stand here with the primary goal of making Rick Scott a one-term governor."