Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In Crist's back yard, Rubio courts votes

Senate candidate Marco Rubio shakes hands at a Pinellas County Republican Party event at Tucson’s Southwest Grill in Clearwater on Monday. He has been endorsed by the Club for Growth.


Senate candidate Marco Rubio shakes hands at a Pinellas County Republican Party event at Tucson’s Southwest Grill in Clearwater on Monday. He has been endorsed by the Club for Growth.

CLEARWATER — After picking up a key endorsement Monday that could pump big money into his campaign, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio set to work on another win that would give Charlie Crist a big, symbolic blow in his home county.

The Miami Republican, challenging Crist for the U.S. Senate nomination, drew about 400 people Monday night to a meeting of the Pinellas Republican Party. In January, the group will hold a "straw poll" on whether local activists prefer Rubio or Crist as their nominee. While officially meaningless, a Pinellas victory for Rubio would be especially stinging coming from the Republican activists who know the governor best.

"I come to this community tonight running for the same office that one of your native sons is running for. This is someone that you know, someone that you voted for, someone that you raised money for, someone that you've worked for, someone you've invested time in all these years," said Rubio, declaring that President Barack Obama's big government agenda has put America at an extraordinary crossroads.

"Never before have we so needed people to go to Washington, D.C., to stand up to that message and offer the American people a clear alternative to that message," Rubio said in his third Tampa Bay stop in a week.

Crist is overwhelmingly beating Rubio in statewide polls and money-raising, but the contest is drawing national attention as the highest-profile example of the moderate vs. conservative battle within the GOP. The influential Club for Growth, which helped push Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party and recently spent about $1 million to defeat a liberal Republican in an upstate New York congressional election, on Monday formally endorsed Rubio.

"Marco Rubio is the real deal, one of the brightest young stars in American politics today, and a proven champion of economic liberty," said Club for Growth president Chris Chocola, noting that the club had concluded Rubio can beat Crist for the nomination and beat Democrat Kendrick Meek in the general election.

Even in Crist's home county, that view was common among the party faithful gathered Monday night at Tucson's restaurant. Republican executive committees tend to draw the most fervent and conservative activists, but it remains to be seen whether those hard-core partisans dominate the primary electorate.

"It's a sliver of the base," said Greg Truax, Crist's Hillsborough County campaign chairman, dismissing the significance of Crist's overwhelming losses in straw poll votes across the state lately.

Crist, though, appears to understand the symbolism of Rubio winning the support of his home county's most die-hard Republican door knockers and envelope stuffers. He stopped by unexpectedly at last month's Republican Executive Committee meeting and is scheduled to be the main speaker in December. The following month is the vote.

Former Pinellas Republican Chairman Tony DiMatteo, now a Rubio backer, said that it could be close and that he hears Crist has been working the phones.

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, also attended Monday's meeting, but stressed that he avoids primary endorsements, even in cases like this involving a hometown colleague. But Beverly Young, his wife, offered her own thoughts after Rubio's rousing speech.

"I love Marco," she gushed.

"She's not endorsing either," said the congressman, ushering her away.

"I love Marco," she repeated before disappearing out the door.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at

In Crist's back yard, Rubio courts votes 11/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2009 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding (w/video)


    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida


    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths


    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.