Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek comes to Tampa, talks shop

05/03/10 Kate Bradshaw
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As this year’s race for Florida’s open US Senate seat continues to dominate headlines, even the seat’s candidates who haven’t gotten much press are stepping into the spotlight. Democratic US Representative Kendrick Meek was in Tampa Bay this weekend, and he was quick to point out how he differs from one key opponent – the now politically-unattached Charlie Crist.

He stood in the hot sun near the entrance of a small Cuban restaurant in West Tampa. TV cameras and other news media formed a small crescent in front of him. It was a far cry from one of Kendrick Meek’s last Tampa Bay appearances, where only two reporters showed up on an overcast Friday to interview him in a vacant lot across from the Bay Pines VA hospital. This time around, WMNF asked Meek how he plans to distinguish his platform from that of his key opponent, Governor Charlie Crist.

Meek, a former state trooper now in his fourth term in the US House of Representatives said that only until recently has Crist been courting the conservative electorate. He said that because of this, there should be no question on who Democrats will support in November.

He said that he has never compromised his Democratic values, something Meek said was risky in this political climate, but ultimately will pay off.

Another issue on which Meek openly disagrees with Republicans is abortion. Last week, the state legislature passed a bill requiring pregnant women seeking abortions in their first trimester to pay for an ultrasound ahead of the procedure. The legislation slipped through without going to committee. Meek said that if he were in Crist’s shoes, he would trash the bill.

While Meek referred to the Senate contest as a three-way race, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Web site lists thirty-five candidates that are vying for the seat. One of the newest is Democrat Jeff Greene, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate investment. Meek said that Greene, who threw his hat in just hours ahead Friday’s filing deadline, would have to overcome some key shortcomings if he expects democratic voters to take him seriously.

Many consider Meek the Democratic frontrunner in a pool of Democrats that includes Greene, former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, and six other Democrats. If he wins the Democratic nomination in August, he’ll be listed among Crist, Rubio, and a number of others in November.

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