In the age of streaming video, Twitter, smart phones and email, Kendrick Meek literally took his candidacy back to the streets to build support for his Florida senate candidacy. Meek amassed 145,000 signatures from Florida voters in a highly symbolic petition drive to have his name added to the ballot. Currently representing Florida’s Miami-Dade and South Broward congressional district, Meek is the presumptive Democratic nominee – his opponent, former Miami mayor Maurice Ferre, has little financial support and barely registers in the poll numbers.
Meek set up public events in Miami Gardens, to fill out a symbolic final petition himself, and in Jacksonville, where he had an evening rally set to celebrate the political landmark.
“I know it’s made me a better candidate and I know it will eventually make me a good senator,” Meek said. “This is really a victory before the victory.”
Two years ago, a Meek senate candidacy would have been considered the longest of long shots. Charlie Crist was a high profile Florida governor turned senator who enjoyed the built-in advantage of incumbency. Barack Obama, who was just beginning to put a little distance between himself and Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries, but was still seen as the underdog in the race, had polarized Florida Democrats with his stance on whether or not their delegates would count at the convention.
Now, two years later, Charlie Crist is on the ropes after voting for President Obama’s stimulus package. Newcomer Marco Rubio, riding the Tea Party surge against Republican incumbents, is leading Crist in the GOP primary polls, but has little cash on hand. Meanwhile, after the biggest voter registration drive in presidential campaign history in 2008, Florida boasts hundreds of thousands of newly energized Democratic voters who could potentially show up at the polls in the fall.
What does Meek have to do in order to have a realistic chance of winning the Florida senate race? Improve his name recognition among Florida voters, raise another $10 to $12 million dollars, and win the independent voters. Having a weak primary opponent actually hurts Meek’s publicity – without any of the drama a competitive race brings, his campaign will get minimal press coverage – but will help him keep his war chest full going into the fall. Meek has roughly $3.5 million in his campaign coffers now. Getting to $15 million will take a national effort, but the congressman appears to be well on his way.
A Rubio win of the GOP nomination in August would set up an almost perfect storm for Meek by putting a sizable chunk of Florida’s independent voters into play. The downside to a Rubio primary win, though, is the river of cash that he is likely to attract from conservative political donors around the country.
Meek is the son of state legislator and Congresswoman Carrie Meek of Miami. A former Florida Highway Patrol trooper, he was elected to the Florida House in 1994 and to the state Senate in 1998.