‘Lifelong Democrat’ Rich, new Dem Crist work the crowd at Palm Beach County Democratic dinnerby George Bennett | September 28th, 2013
Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich took a not-so-subtle jab at potential 2014 primary rival Charlie Crist while both attended the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s fundraising dinner Saturday night.
“As most of you know, I am a lifelong Democrat,” former state Sen. Rich said — leaving unsaid that former Republican Gov. Crist has been registered with the party for less than a year.
As the only Democrat actively campaigning for governor, Rich was given five minutes to speak to the crowd of about 450 Democratic activists at the Marriott near Cityplace. She struggled to get the audience’s attention at first, but drew applause when she declared her longtime support for the party’s platform.
“I’m a Democrat because of our party’s values and principles…These are my values and they have always been my values,” Rich said.
Crist has said for months that he’d make a 2014 decision in the fall. Many expect him to announce in October before the Florida Democratic Party’s Oct. 25-27 convention in Lake Buena Vista.
“We’re in the season but I’m not sure exactly when,” Crist said when asked about his timetable for making a decision. “I just have to continue to think about it and listen to good people around the state and we’ll figure it out. It’ll work itself out.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the event’s keynote speaker, was chairman of the National Governors Association when Crist was the Republican governor of Florida.
“Charlie was one of the handful of governors who was most willing to reach across and try to find bipartisan solutions,” Rendell said before the dinner.
“At that time he was a loyal Republican, but he was always willing to put what I thought was doing the right thing ahead of politics,” said Rendell, who emphasized he’s not taking sides in a potential primary between Crist and Rich.
Rendell encouraged former Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter to switch to the Democratic Party in 2009. Specter lost a Democratic primary the following year.
Rendell said Specter was seen by Democrats as making the switch out of political expedience. He said Crist, who switched from Republican to no party affiliation in 2010 before becoming a Democrat in 2012, needs to make it clear that “he became a Democrat because the values that he holds are more encompassed by the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.”