Two years after Florida helped elect the nation’s first black president, Charlie Crist’s unrelenting drive to win a Senate seat at the expense of a black Democrat and a Hispanic Republican has forced tender racial sensitivities back to the surface of Sunshine State politics.
Crist was involved in getting President Bill Clinton to persuade Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek to drop his own bid and endorse Crist in an effort to deny Republican Marco Rubio the Senate seat. Sources told POLITICO that Meek signaled that he would drop out of the race — twice — before backtracking, a characterization that Meek denied.
Meek’s candidacy didn’t gain early traction, and some Democrats looking to rob the seat from Republicans — and specifically rising star Rubio — hoped Crist would take his place as the unofficial Democratic standard-bearer. That set was confident that Meek’s departure — or even significant damage to his credibility — would create a path for Crist.
But now Crist’s getting heat from both flanks, branded as an egotist whose efforts to undermine black and Hispanic rivals smack of racial insensitivity.
“That has been the chatter all along,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said of a long-running whisper campaign that Meek could or should drop out. “It comes from Charlie Crist, who was run out of his party and is now over here sowing the seeds of destruction in the Democratic Party.”
Noting how quickly Crist spoke publicly about the Clinton-Meek discussion, Hastings said Crist “shouldn’t have been out there flapping his gums” because “then he puts Bill Clinton as the demon for African Americans.”
And, he predicted, “this is going to cause African Americans to be mad and vote in greater numbers than they were likely to before this incident.”
Crist spokesman Danny Kanner said the current Florida governor’s the only choice for those who want to stop Rubio.