A Nan Rich supporter displays her support while Rich speaks to Florida Democrats on Sunday.
LAKE BUENA VISTA — With former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist expected to launch a Democratic campaign for governor next week, Democratic rival Nan Rich urged party activists Sunday to look beyond Crist’s “style” and choose her “substance” in a 2014 primary.
Rich, a former state legislator from Broward County, has been running for governor for 18 months and is the only Democrat actively campaigning to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
But Crist, who became a Democrat less than a year ago and has been flirting with a candidacy for months, leads Rich in the polls and generated more buzz at this weekend’s gathering of 1,500 party activists from around the state. He’s expected to formally launch his campaign on Nov. 4.
“Rumor has it that Charlie Crist will be entering the race for governor again,” said Rich, who usually doesn’t mention Crist by name in her speeches.
“Now, I know that being a woman, a mom, and a grandmother probably gives me an unfair advantage over Charlie. But he does have a lot of experience running for statewide offices, so I’m not taking his candidacy lightly if he comes in.”
Rich continued: “Seriously, there’s no denying that Charlie Crist has a lot of style.
“But with many Floridians still out of work, with so many seniors on waiting lists for care, with so many children’s lives negligently lost by a broken social services system, with so much at stake in how we manage our environmental resources – I truly believe this election will be more about substance than style – and I believe it must be about substance to get Florida back on the right track.”
Rich has raised only $215,924 so far, which is less than some state Senate candidates and a fraction of the more than $16 million in the coffers of the committee backing Scott. Crist is expected to easily outdistance Rich in fundraising, but she urged Democrats to look beyond that.
“I stand before you today not on platitudes or piles of money – I stand here on principles. Democratic principles,” Rich said.
Rich suggested her underdog candidacy is like Barack Obama‘s presidential bid when he was considered a long shot to defeat Hillary Clinton.
“Six years ago, in October of 2007, few people thought a majority of Florida’s voters would vote for an unknown African American candidate for President. But a year later we did,” said Rich.
Rich told Democrats that she, too, is a barrier-breaking candidate.
“I made history when I was elected the first woman leader of the Senate Democrats, and with your support – and your vote — history will be made again when I’m elected the first woman governor of Florida,” Rich said.