Genuine progressive gets cold shoulder in Florida governor’s race

William Patrick
|
Feb 14, 2014 5:00 AM
Genuine progressive gets cold shoulder in Florida governor’s race
YOU DON'T KNOW ME: Former state Sen. Nan Rich trails her Democratic primary opponent, Charlie Crist, despite her bona fide progressive credentials.

YOU DON’T KNOW ME: Former state Sen. Nan Rich trails her Democratic primary opponent, Charlie Crist, despite her bona fide progressive credentials.

 

By William Patrick  | Florida Watchdog

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Nan Rich is running for governor of Florida.

While that’s not news, the lack of attention paid to the progressive Democrat — and legitimate contender — is curious.

The former state senator was the most powerful Democrat in the Florida Legislature until she was term-limited out of office in 2012.

As the statehouse successor to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Fla., Rich compiled a consistent record of championing liberal policies. By all accounts, she’s been a faithful steward.

Yet Rich appears to be getting passed over for the newly minted Democrat convert and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Since announcing his candidacy, Crist has reversed one long held political conviction after another.

The Florida Democratic Party is silent about Rich’s campaign, opting instead to bash incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. There’s no mention of Rich in previous months’ news releases, and the party’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are void of Rich endorsements.

A Jan. 22 Public Policy Poll showed Rich trailing Scott, the Republican incumbent, by only 6-points in a head-to-head match up, 34-40. The poll interviewed 591 Florida voters from Jan. 16-21, and had margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll also indicated 70 percent of respondents didn’t know of Rich, or weren’t sure enough about Rich’s candidacy, to rate her favorably or unfavorably.

For its part the media is focused on Crist, arguably creating the impression that the longtime Republican is now the Democratic nominee. But the party primary isn’t until August.

Crist appeared on the “Colbert Report“ Tuesday evening and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” last Friday and was cast in the role of the man to take Florida’s governor’s mansion. Major state news outlets have given Crist ample coverage — though mixed — over his book, “The Party’s Over.”

Why is Nan Rich being ignored?

Watchdog.org contacted Progressive Strategies, a Washington, D.C.- based consulting firm, for insight into the apparent cold shoulder Rich is getting in spite of her credentials.

CEO Michael Lux declined to comment, saying only that he has “not followed Florida politics very closely this cycle, and know(s) very little about the race, or Ms. Rich.”

Emily’s List, a national organization dedicated to “electing women to create progressive change,” has a fundraising page designed to help elect state governors in 2014.

Wendy Davis of Texas, Mary Burke of Wisconsin, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania and Martha Coakly of Massachusetts are all featured. Florida’s Rich did not make the list.

Without media coverage or financial support from the Democratic Party’s financial wing, voters are left largely unaware that Rich is even in the race.

“Simply put, the party bosses think that because of Crist’s name recognition, he might win in November, despite his reputation as a malleable candidate who’s not tethered to a consistent set of principles,” Robert Sanchez, policy director for the James Madison Institute told Watchdog.org. “In contrast, they simply don’t think that Ms. Rich could win,”  

The brush-off isn’t helping her fundraising. While incumbency and name recognition help Scott and Crist rake in millions of dollars, the little known candidate from Weston, Fla,. has fielded only $396,000 in direct contributions, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

A political committee connected to Rich called Citizens for a Progressive Florida has raised just $81,000.

Sanchez, a former Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the Miami Herald, said Rich is a victim of a “Catch-22.”

“The lack of media attention tends to keep (her) behind in opinion polls, which often reflect name recognition. This results in even less media coverage,” he said. “In a sense, it’s the proverbial vicious circle. Nan Rich is a victim of this.”

Attempts by Rich to push Crist into a public debate also have been ignored, further marginalizing her as a viable alternative to the man that until recently was pro-life, pro-Cuba embargo and anti same-sex marriage.

A Jan. 30 tweet from Rich’s official account blasts her opponent, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Rich supports same-sex marriage, Obamacare, increasing the minimum wage, robust education spending and social justice issues. She opposes fracking by the oil and gas industry.

Watchdog.org contacted the Nan Rich for Governor campaign twice for comment, but the candidate did not return our calls, which her staff said she would do if she wanted to.

did not receive a response.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org or follow Florida Watchdog on Twitter at @watchdogfla Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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