With a week to go until the Democratic primary for governor, Charlie Crist is on the campaign trail in Democrat-rich South Florida, but he's not campaigning against his opponent.
He's so focused on Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the November election that primary rival Nan Rich's name didn't cross his lips during a campaign appearance on Tuesday. But he repeatedly invoked Scott's name.
Demostrating just how important the Democratic bastion of Broward County is to his strategy to unseat Scott, Crist's campaign announced Tuesday that he's holding his primary night party in Fort Lauderdale – not his hometown of St. Petersburg.
But Rich, the former state Senate Democratic leader from Weston, isn't conceding anything.
She's spending most of the primary campaign's final week in South Florida, determined to prove wrong the Democratic Party leaders who've embraced Crist and the pundits who've already dubbed him the de facto party nominee.
For Crist, it's all about the general election. And for the 150 or so people who gathered to catch a glimpse of Crist as he opened a Palm Beach County campaign office west of Florida's Turnpike, the results of the Aug. 26 primary are a foregone conclusion.
Stanley Siegel, president of the Democratic Club at Century Village west of Boca Raton, said Rich has little support. "They just don't know who she is."
Bunny Steinman, the state Democratic committeewoman for Palm Beach County, said voters "all know Charlie Crist. They're all voting for Charlie. They don't know there's another candidate in the race."
Crist, who spoke for less than four minutes at the opening of his office, did acknowledge that "we've got a primary next week. We've got to take care of that."
But he focused on Scott: "This guy's not telling the truth. He won't talk about his record because he doesn't have a record to run on, which is pretty pathetic."
State Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican who represents coastal Palm Beach County east of Interstate 95, visited the Crist office at the behest of the Scott campaign. "We've got Governor Results, also known as Governor Scott, versus Governor Rhetoric, otherwise known as Governor Crist," Hager said.
Rich said she'd surprise the naysayers next week, with a strong showing in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
"I have represented parts of Broward County for 12 years, and have lived in this community and have been a community activist, and I have tremendous support in Broward County. I believe it's pretty intense. People are passionate about wanting to get out and support me," she said.
She's planning events in Broward on Sunday to encourage supporters on the last day of early voting.
Rich has been touring the state for more than two years, making more than 350 campaign stops in 50 of the state's 67 counties. "I've always said toward the end I would spend a lot of time in the three South Florida counties," she said.
Rich will be at the Bonaventure Country Club in Weston, the city where she lives, on primary night.
Crist, who rents an apartment on Fort Lauderdale beach in addition to his St. Petersburg home, is holding his primary night party at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale.
The message, said former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller of Cooper City, a close Crist adviser, is that the region is critical to winning in November. Geller said his candidate is "going to be a spending a tremendous amount of time in South Florida."
Charlie Crist is counting on Democratic South Florida to defeat Rick Scott at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.
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