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The Baltimore Sun

Nan Rich says she's in governor's race to stay

Sun Sentinel

Nan Rich says she’s in the race to the end.

The end, to Rich and more than 100 supporters who gathered Friday evening for the official opening of her campaign office in Weston, is winning the governor’s race in November.

“I am running for governor. And I will be in this race, in case anybody had any doubts, I will be in this race until the end. And the end to me is to be elected governor of the state of Florida,” she said.

Rich took shots at Charlie Crist, who was elected governor as a Republican in 2006 and is now competing with her for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“I’m running on my record. I think it’s very important for people to run on their records. Not a record that I’ve had to reinvent or apologize for. I’m running on my record of fighting for middle class families, of fighting for strong public education, of fighting for seniors, of fighting for children, and health care for all Floridians. Those are just some. I’m also running on a set of principles that I’ve held throughout my adult life, the Democratic principles of putting people first….

“I haven’t changed my principles in any of my elections, and I’ve won them all. That’s the way I’m going to work to win this election. I think Florida is ready for a true, progressive governor….

“One thing is for sure: everybody wants Rick Scott to be a one-term governor. And then the only question is who is the person that’s going to replace Rick Scott?”

The rest of Rich’s comments are in the above video.

About 100 @senatornanrich supporters on hand for her office opening in Weston. /AM pic.twitter.com/AbycbszCYf

— Broward Politics (@browardpolitics) May 16, 2014

Crist is ahead in polls, ahead in fundraising, and – to pundits, Republicans, and many Democratic Party leaders – is the presumed Democratic nominee.

The differences in the two Democrats’ campaigns showed Friday evening.

When Crist, who’s from St. Petersburg, opened his South Florida headquarters on April 19, more than 300 people showed up, creating chaos, but producing good TV images. (Rich and her supporters scoffed at the Crist event, repeatedly suggesting that his campaign juiced the turnout by importing paid staffers.)

Rich, in her Weston base, attracted about 100 on Friday night. She’s a former state senator and former state representative from a Weston-based district. Rich also rose to Democratic Party leader before term limits forced her to leave the Senate.

The crowd size wasn’t the only difference.

A huge news media contingent, with multiple reporters and TV cameras, reported on Crist. Rich attracted one reporter and a conservative website publisher.

Crist attracted 10 elected county officials and state legislators, plus elected city leaders and a contingent of former elected officials. He also got three of the four leaders of the Broward Democratic Party: Chairman Mitch Ceasar, vice chairwoman Cynthia Busch and state committeeman Ken Evans. (Though the party chieftains said they weren’t endorsing Crist, none showed up for Rich.)

Rich got six elected officials: state Reps. Katie Edwards and Rick Stark, Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo, Weston Commissioner Toby Feuer, and County Commissioner Marty Kiar. (Kiar’s father Monroe was in the front row of the Crist campaign office event last month.)

Broward School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson stood behind her mother during her speech. (She’s in the dark red shirt in the video.)

Also attending was Broward’s state Democratic committeewoman Maggie Davidson, one of Rich’s strongest supporters – and the one local party leader who didn’t attend the Crist event.

Another sidelight: Broward Sheriff Scott Israel showed up for the Crist event, but not for Rich’s. (Like the Democratic Party leaders at the Crist event, he professed neutrality.)  Three of Israel’s employees – Castillo, Patti Lynn, and Ann Zucker, president of the Weston Democratic Club – were at Rich’s.

When he got to the mic, Kiar proclaimed, “We love Nan.”

“Our job as Nan fans is to get as many votes for Nan as possible, and that starts right here in Broward County…. We need to end [Scott’s] political career and we need to pink slip Rick and the person to do that is the best senator that I have ever known, Nan Rich.”

Edwards said in an interview she endorsed Rich long before Crist entered the race, and has never been tempted to switch her allegiance. “I’ve been very critical of Charlie. I like people who are consistent in their views,” she said.

Edwards said Rich has been a champion of Democratic beliefs for years. “That woman has done more for the issues that don’t have high powered lobbyists,” she said.

For example, Edwards said, long before it became virtually universal among Democrats, Rich was publicly advocating on behalf of gays and lesbians. She championed overturning the state’s ban on gays adopting children.

She rejected the notion that Crist has the nomination locked up.

“The media keeps saying she can’t raise money, she’s not a viable candidate,” she said. “You keep putting that kind of crap out there in the press and people believe it.”

Others attending the event agreed with Edwards.

Leo Curiel, 23, who recently graduated from Florida International University with a degree in international relations and economics, said he prefers Rich.

“She’s the most Democratic person running for governor, so she has my full support,” he said.

Of those who are sure Crist will win the nomination: “I believe that they’re thinking in opportunistic ways.”

And, Curiel said, he thinks Rich can turn things around before the August primary. “After the “Floridians start to know who Nan Rich is, they will know she’s a true Democrat and that’s her ticket to win…. I believe she has a chance, especially when Floridians become more aware of the race.”

Janet Burnett of Sunrise, a disabled registered nurse, said she thinks the party establishment’s support for Crist is motivated partially by gender. “I do suspect that all politics is a good old boy system. This is America.”

She discounted predictions of a Crist victory. “They are making themselves into a fortune teller. [President Barack] Obama was not supposed to win,” she said.

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