Despite challenges, some Democrats are getting behind former Democratic state Senator Nan Rich for governor

05/20/13 Janelle Irwin
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Former state Senator Nan Rich is already hitting the campaign trail to try to unseat Florida Governor Rick Scott next year. Rich, a self-proclaimed progressive Democrat, wants to boost her name recognition, but during a meet and greet with the Democratic Women’s Club of Upper Pinellas in Safety Harbor Monday she said she’s not worried about facing a challenger in the primary.

“I believe that you have to put your credentials up against whomever enters the race and I’m very comfortable putting my Democratic credentials, the core values and principals in which I believe, I’m comfortable putting them up against whoever decides to get into the race whether it’s Charlie Crist, Alex Sink, anybody.”

So far, according to the Florida Division of Elections, there are 17 candidates who have filed to run for governor in 2014. Rich faces two other Democrats - Jessica Stewart of Panama City Beach and Ryan Lipner from Fort Lauderdale. According to a St. Petersburg Times article, when Lipner, then a 20-year-old, ran for president in 2004 despite constitutional limitations, he admitted that running for office helped him get dates.

Rich is banking on her 12 years of experience in the Florida legislature to give her an edge in the primary.

“I served as the Democratic leader of the Senate the last two years, 2010 to 2012, and was kind of responsible for trying to stop some very bad legislation, in our opinion, from passing and, in November of ’12 I was term limited. So, then you have a choice of what direction you want to go. I kind of looked around at the people that I thought might think about running and I just said, ‘why not me?’” Nan Rich

Rich’s name recognition is a concern among her early supporters. Ruth Dady is with the Democratic Women’s Club of Upper Pinellas.

“I’m just wondering what her plan is as far as getting the funds that are needed and how she is going to be able to get folks to rally around her and if she is the right candidate.”

Other supporters are worried about money. During the 2010 gubernatorial election, Rick Scott narrowly defeated Alex Sink after his campaign vastly outspent Sink’s. Some of that money came from Scott’s own deep pockets. Rich is off to an early start having already banked more than $100,000. Governor Scott hasn’t filed election documents yet, but his Let’s Get to Work campaign has already raised nearly $10 million.

“We’re just hoping that all the money doesn’t buy another term for you know who.”

That’s Democratic Women’s Club of Pasco president June Keener. She bantered back and forth with fellow Pasco County Democrat Maggie Koons about how Rich could overcome an obvious fundraising challenge.

“I think when you hear her and know what her message is, you can’t help but think she would be the best person for the job. I think it’s getting out, that’s why we want to have her – media has to get behind her.”

Rich threw her name in the hat after watching what she viewed as a series of bad political moves in Tallahassee by both the governor and legislature.

“What happened in this session is a disgrace. That this state, that the legislature – that the governor and the legislature could not come to an agreement to take the $51 billion that is Florida’s share of the Medicaid expansion money through the Affordable Care Act. That’s money that our tax payers sent to Washington, to their federal funds that should be coming back to the state of Florida.”

Rich says her top priority is education.

“From childcare where you have 72,000 children on a waiting list – I don’t know how that helps jobs and the economy to spur the economy when you’re talking about all those children that don’t have a place to go so that their parents can go to work – or at least a safe place. And then you have universal pre-K that we have in this state where we could have been the model for this nation. We’re not because we haven’t put the money into it.”

The Democrat says more money needs to be spent on public education at all levels. Rich is also backing more funding for healthcare including mental health. To pay for it, Rich wants to close tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and businesses.

“And you don’t do tax breaks like the governor just did for manufacturing because that’s not going to bring jobs here. That’s already been proven. We’ve seen this trickle down doesn’t help. That cost us about $114 million. I would much rather take that money and put it into education or healthcare or mental health services for people in the state of Florida. You have to have an equitable, fair tax base. That doesn’t mean raising taxes, but it does mean closing loopholes that allow some people to get away without paying their fair share.”

Rich said another of her priorities is election reform. This year, the legislature passed a bill that will increase early voting days and limit ballot language for amendments, but Rich says the measure doesn’t go far enough.

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