Meek Campaign Manager Says Ballot Signature Drive is Amping Up

03/15/10 Kate Bradshaw
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As things heat up between Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist ahead of the GOP Senate primary, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is the Democrat many expect will face one or both of them in November. But he has to get on the ballot first. Today, his campaign manager said Meek is hitting the home stretch.

Democratic U.S.Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek is taking a different route to getting on the 2010 ballot. Instead of paying the more than 10 thousand-dollar qualifying fee, he’s collecting signatures. If he can get enough, he’d be the first candidate ever to qualify for a statewide seat by petition. Abe Dyk, Meek’s campaign manager, says the campaign is fast approaching the more than 112,000 signatures needed to get him on the ballot, and is shooting for 130,000 signatures to be sure.

By tomorrow, we’ll have submitted over 79,000 petitions. Many of you know that we had a data entry backlog; I think Beth Reinhardt saw it first-hand. But by the end of the week we will have submitted 90,000 to local county board of elections. And we’re just very excited about that; are working through that backlog, as you can see, at a very fast rate. And we’ll be submitting them by noon on the 29th.

The board of elections does not accept every petition submitted. Each signature has to be deemed valid. Dyk says that 90 to 92 percent of the signatures submitted so far have been accepted. If Meek does not reach the qualifying number by the March 29 deadline, Dyk said, he may end up forking over the fee, which is due by April 30. This, he said, would mostly be a measure to fend off litigation over the signatures.

We expect that we are going to make the ballot, and make it with enough that there’s no question and we’ll not be paying that fee. But, you know, we also don’t want this to get dragged into a legal process that would take the voice away from over 112 thousand Floridians. So we would only be doing it to make sure that they kept their voices, and not because—we’re going to make the ballot by petition.

Dyk says they’re getting roughly fifteen hundred signatures per day. He says the campaign’s momentum is picking up because of a key difference between Rep. Meek and his two major opponents: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and former State House speaker and tea party darling Marco Rubio.

There are public servants, and there are politicians. And Kendrick Meek is a public servant, somebody who really is thinking about what’s going to help everyday Floridians, and not focused on what the political implications of a certain action are.

Crist and Rubio regularly spar over excessive spending. The Meek campaign, on the other hand, is not in battle mode yet—that is, aside from his teaming up with Rubio to attack Crist’s purchase of United States Sugar land for the Everglades Restoration Project. Both said the 1.3 billion dollars the state expects to pay for the land is well beyond its market value. But it is not clear whether slamming his two biggest challengers would make a difference. Meek trails both in the polls. But Dyk says the campaign doesn’t care about numbers. Instead, he said, the campaign has launched its grassroots effort into full force.

We’re going to be focused on getting our message out. And we’re going to be continuing to travel the state, and talk about how Kendrick’s going to be a different kind of senator. People are hurting; they need action—not politics or ideology. And voters, I think, are going to be turned off by what they’re seeing on the Republican side, which is ideology and politics.

Meek is the Democratic frontrunner in the race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat. His Democratic opposition includes former Miami mayor Maurice Ferre, who has criticized Meek’s support of the Afghanistan troop surge, among other things. Most polls show Meek leading the former mayor in the polls. The primary election for both major parties is scheduled for Aug. 24.

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