Dems bring out big gun in Tampa - Al Gore
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10/01/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Democratic US Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek, former vice president Al Gore


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

Yesterday Florida Democrats brought out one of the big guns to stump for Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek - Former Vice President Al Gore. While the poll numbers for the unusual race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat show Meek still has some catching up to do, there was an air of optimism among the hundreds of people who showed up.

Meek, a Democratic U.S. representative from Miami, faces a tough uphill battle in the multi-way race, with Republican Marco Rubio and independent Charlie Crist as his biggest road blocks. Gore says the race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat is pivotal.

And he had some carefully-crafted words for Crist.

Gore and several other prominent Democrats, including Representative Meek, spoke to several hundred people at the Tampa letter carriers’ hall. Other speakers included Democratic state Attorney General candidate Dan Gelber and Lieutenant Governor candidate Rod Smith. When he introduces the rally’s headliner, Meek alludes to an old score many Democrats see as unresolved.

Digs aside, Meek gave an impassioned plea to the diverse audience. In the polls he currently gets anywhere from 18 percent to nearly a quarter of the votes. Former House Speaker Marco Rubio gets around 40 percent - 46 percent according to a Quinnipiac poll out yesterday. Governor Charlie Crist gets about 30. Part of Meek’s campaign strategy has been to lump his two biggest opponents in the same category using past footage of Crist saying he embraces things like offshore drilling. At the podium, the numbers don’t seem to faze Meek as he does this.

While Meek emphasizes Crist’s past conservatism, other Democratic candidates take aim at the GOP. State Senator Dan Gelber, who hopes to be Florida’s next attorney general, says Tallahassee Republicans have wreaked havoc on Florida.

A fired-up Rod Smith, who is running to be the next Lieutenant Governor, says the GOP isn’t exactly a party of ideas.

Other speakers included Maurice Ferre, who ran against Meek in the Democratic Primary, and a spokesperson for the Alex Sink gubernatorial campaign – Sink herself didn’t show. Among enthused audience members was former Tampa city council member John Dingfelder, a Democratic candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission. He says after the rally that polls shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Verna Pearson is from a local chapter of the Service Employees’ International Union. She says without Crist, the race would easily go to meek, but she’s optimistic no less.

Meek stood beside Gore throughout the former vice president’s speech. Aside from a heckler or two that crowed at the mention of global warming, the crowd seemed spirited by the rally’s end.

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