Politics & Government

Long-time Senate candidate Meek falls behind Rubio, Crist

Up early Sunday for a 12-hour campaign marathon through South Florida, Democrat Senate candidate Kendrick Meek said he saw three commercials for his deep-pocketed rival before he could even get out the door.

It's been that kind of hard-knocks campaign for Meek, who got into the race 18 long months ago, before any other major candidate.

Who would have expected what happened next?

Marco Rubio became a Republican phenomenon, Gov. Charlie Crist reinvented himself as an independent, and a little-known Palm Beach billionaire named Jeff Greene became a Democratic contender.

A shoe-leather campaign that collected 125,000 voter signatures hasn't taken Meek farther than a distant third place in the polls, behind Crist and Rubio, and with Greene closing in.

So five weeks before the primary, the Miami congressman finds himself shoring up support in his own backyard. His seven stops on Sunday included a gospel music-infused church in Lauderdale Lakes, a Miami union hall, and heavily Democratic condominiums in Aventura, Sunrise and Deerfield Beach. Vouching for Meek at most of the stops was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his popular Democratic colleague representing South Florida in Congress.

"All of a sudden Kendrick had to pivot and ask for the support of people he thought he could have counted on," said Democratic fundraiser and developer Stephen Bittel, who came to Meek's appearance in Aventura to show his support.

As for Greene, he makes no apologies for his short-time record as a registered Democrat and full-time resident of Florida only since 2008. He blew off chances to meet with gay, Hispanic, Haitian and student activists at Saturday's state party gathering in Hollywood and only decided to drop by the black caucus at the last minute.

"We pick and choose certain caucuses," Greene said, adding that Democrats are "welcoming me into the tent."

Even if they don't, Greene is undeterred. Only Meek was invited to address Friday's annual gathering of Democratic senators and donors in Nantucket, but Greene came anyway, as a donor. He brought his 145-foot yacht and sat in the front row when it was Meek's turn to speak.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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