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Kendrick Meek Wins Democratic Senate Nod in Florida, But Faces Uphill Fight

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Kendrick Meek, an African-American congressman whose early support from Bill Clinton helped dissuade other Democratic challengers from running for Florida's vacant Senate seat, handily turned back a challenge from real estate investment billionaire Jeff Greene in the Sunshine State's Democratic senatorial primary.

On the Republican side, Marco Rubio was easily nominated against token opposition, having chased Gov. Charlie Crist out of the GOP Senate primary -- and out of the Republican Party itself -- earlier this year. The upshot of Tuesday's election returns is that Meek's defeat of Greene sets up a three-way race in November among Meek, Rubio, and Crist, with Rubio leading in the early polling.
Meek is a 43-year-old Miami native who began his career in public service as a Florida state trooper, rising to the rank of captain. The son of popular former Miami-area congresswoman Carrie Meek, he served in the state legislature from 1995 to 2002 when he essentially inherited his mother's congressional seat in a sketchy maneuver in which she timed her resignation announcement so that her son was only viable candidate. The sleight-of-hand was probably unnecessary: Kendrick Meek was already popular in the district, which comprises the city's largest African-American community in the House of Representatives, and he remains so.
Kendrick Meek, Jeff GreeneMeek now undertakes an electoral challenge that is much more ambitious in scope than defeating Greene, a political neophyte. The Democratic nominee starts the march toward November in a distant third place, but he is predicating his general election campaign on a strategy emphasizing that he is really running against two Republicans.
Of those two, Rubio is considered the more conservative. The son of Cuban émigrés, Rubio has been endorsed by the state's Tea Party organizations, and is being backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. And Crist, whose re-election as governor would have been a foregone conclusion, has proven crossover appeal, although his best case scenario probably would have been to have faced a pairing of Rubio and Greene. Polls have shown more Democrats would defect to Crist if Greene became the nominee instead of Meek.
Greene, a 55-year-old Massachusetts native and Harvard MBA who moved to Florida less than three years ago, spent an estimated $23 million -- almost all of it his own money -- on the campaign. That money is gone now, but there's more where it came from: Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.25 billion last year. A colorful personality -- Mike Tyson was the best man at his 2008 wedding -- Greene attempted to turn his great wealth into an advantage. He vowed not take contributions larger than $100, telling reporters last May as he began his uphill campaign: "I'm not going to take a penny of special interest money."

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This approach was a savvy gambit for an amateur whose only previous foray into elective politics came in 1982 when he ran in a Republican primary for a Southern California congressional district occupied by a Democratic incumbent. But it wasn't enough to cover up an essential handicap: the very source of his money. Greene made himself wealthy in California real estate in the 1980s and 1990s, but he made himself super rich by investing in "credit default swaps." Essentially, Greene was betting -- successfully, as it turned out -- on a housing bubble that would crash the nation's real estate market and devastate the subprime mortgage market. This was an odd pedigree for a candidate in an economically hard hit state, especially one who now identifies himself as a Democrat.
Greene spent huge sums on a vast television ad campaign that characterized Meek as a corrupt and ineffectual "career politician." Meek fought back, attacking Greene from the start as a carpetbagger who not only benefitted from Florida homeowners' misery, but as a shady operator who himself had helped cause the nation's current economic woes. Some of Meek's negative ads went further than the facts warranted, such as the one alleging that financier Warren Buffett "called Greene's scheme 'financial weapons of mass destruction.'" (The Berkshire Hathaway chairman had indeed used such language in 2003 to describe credit default swaps, but he was discussing a particular proposed transaction that Greene had nothing to do with -- and never mentioned Jeff Greene at all.)
Ultimately, however, enough doubt was raised about how Greene made his money, and about his inexperience, his seeming attempt to waltz into Florida and buy a Senate seat that Democrats came home -- giving their party's nomination to a known quantity. For Meek, however, the real hard work lies ahead.

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37 Comments

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Marie Brown

Meeks isn't going anywhere in the next election. I was thrilled that Rick Scott-R, who has never run for office before beat Bill McCollum-R who was the incumbent. Mr. McCollum was so classless with his appearance afterward and refused to congratulate Mr. Scott. It was shameless. I pray that this is just the beginning of booting out the old and bringing in some new candidates that will not spit in the eye of the small people. Thanks Florida.

August 24 2010 at 11:50 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
hcedeee

luialva10:45 PM Aug 24, 2010= The tea party radical extremist leaders who like Marco Rubio are mostly self serving hypocrites and have no ideas ,no solutions and a disaster for this state. Spewing out hate and bible thumping jargon isn't what I call a solution to any problems. Rubio will win Miami because most here are ethnic voters incapable of even considering a non Cuban over a Cuban (I am Cuban). I hope the rest of the state is smarter and atleast looks up how self serving and full of it Rubio is. He gave his wife a "job" that we paid for and has looooooooong history of using money which is not his to live a nice life while others foolish enough to vote for him "can eat cake". He is a TYPICAL Miami politico with a golden tongue who can preach it but he never walked it.. Miami banana republic standards shold not be rewarded with higher office. ****************************************** Most people stopped listening when you said. "I an Cuban". We are Americans...and couldn't care less about Cubans involved in our politics..

August 24 2010 at 11:32 PM Report abuse -14 rate up rate down Reply
lois

I wonder how many people who have posted tonight are from FL. I am and am so sad that Bill McCollom did not win the primlinary for Governor. Rick Scott cheated and stole soooo much money for Medicare and was infestigated for Medicare fraud, he spent over $20 million dollars in ugly, ugly adds, when he could have given some of that money to the poor where Bill did not spend anywhere's near that kind of money. I can't stand Alex Cink either and both Scott and Cink are crooks and God help the state of Florida. At least Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush, the only Bush did great things for this state. Again God help this state and I sure as hell hope Rubio wins for the senate race as he is at least more honest and has better ideas for our country than Meek. Sorry Bill, voted for you wish you would have won, Scott is a real sleeze and a criminal.

August 24 2010 at 11:27 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
hcedeee

revblueroof10:57 PM Aug 24, 2010 In case you want to be correct in your post, the seat is now a republican seat. It will be one of several democartic pick ups in November, enlarging their margin of control in the senate. Fla. KY, and several other states will be moving into the majority on Nov. 2.****************** The only thing Democrats will be picking up is pink slips.

August 24 2010 at 11:26 PM Report abuse +15 rate up rate down Reply
omountainman

Crist needs to go away! I contacted Crist's office during the spill in the gulf and offered assistance by way of specially designed equipment. His secretary gave me his email address and said that was the only way to contact him. I emailed his office with the same offer and received a computer response email telling me what his office was doing in the gulf and provided links to BP's website. No personal response to a credible offer! Pitiful!!! Crist could give a rat's you know what about anyone except himself. He's basically throwing a temper tantrum like a two year old because he didn't get the nod from the GOP! Well, if did give a damm about the GOP, he would be a team player and bow out, instead of being a spoiler for the Democrats!

August 24 2010 at 11:25 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
stepkamy

None of the candidates, Democratic or Republicans, has said how they are going to solve the foreclosure problems in the nation, but especially in Florida. Greene and the Wall Street vultures, which he seems to be one, will want to continue business as usual. I hope the entire financial system crashes sooner, rather than later, as I do not believe any politican has the desire or power to stop this run-away-freight train. The sooner it crashes, the better off we will all be as our assets will not be totally depleted and devastation will not be so great. The banks, investors, and Wall Street vultures, will never do anything that will benefit the middle and poor people. Only GOD can help us.

August 24 2010 at 11:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
joe

Kendrick Meek will attract much of the votes that Christ would need to defeat Rubio. Crist will split the Republican vote but will split the Democrat vote also. Too bad there isn't a primary for the independents. Losers should not be able to run in the general election.

August 24 2010 at 11:22 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
Debbie Penland !

"Florida"...beautiful "Florida"...i-f you l-o-v-e it as much as "WE DO"...you will h-a-p-p-i-l-y give this seat to "Marco Rubio"!!! "Crist" is a "Sore Loser" that cannot "serve FLORIDA" as it s-h-o-u-l-d be...NEITHER does "Meek" have "what it takes" to "DO WHAT H-A-S TO BE DONE" to bring greater prosperity to your "BEAUTIFUL" FLORIDA!!!

August 24 2010 at 11:20 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
brocarrollfbc

The main reason Crist is in the race is to pull votes from Rubio and keep the Democrat seat away from the Republicans. Christ has no chance and instead of dropping out like a gentleman he shows where he stands.

August 24 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brocarrollfbc's comment
revblueroof

In case you want to be correct in your post, the seat is now a republican seat. It will be one of several democartic pick ups in November, enlarging their margin of control in the senate. Fla. KY, and several other states will be moving into the majority on Nov. 2.

August 24 2010 at 10:57 PM Report abuse -14 rate up rate down Reply
Danny

Since Scott is out as a candidate for Governor I prefer Crist to Rubio and hope we get Crist for another term. Regarding Scott : my reason for voting for him was that he was the only candidate who spoke against the building of the Islam Mosque near Ground Zero. This is an important isssue and few of the politicians of either party are speaking out against it.

August 24 2010 at 10:21 PM Report abuse -26 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Danny's comment

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