Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Four potential candidates for gov hit Hillsborough Dems dinner
Posted Sep 22, 2012 by William March
Updated Sep 22, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, known for barnburner stump speeches, gave one at tonight’s Hillsborough County Democratic Party fundraising dinner, but still the best show was four potential candidates for governor—one of them not even a Democrat yet—working the crowd.
Alex Sink of Tampa, state Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston—the only declared candidate—are all bona fide Democrats, of course. But also attending the dinner at the Tampa Convention Center was former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a no-party registrant, attending along with his wife, Carole, who actually is a registered Democrat.
“I’m so excited—this is my first Democratic dinner,” she said. “I’m the Democrat, and he’s my guest.”
“I don’t really know that many Democrats yet,” she added. “I’m getting to know the family.”
Carole Crist said she was a registered Republican in New York before she and Crist were married, but switched her Florida registration to Democratic a year ago—“I just made the decision,” she said. “I was very impressed with the president.”
Democrats smell blood in the water because of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s weakness in job approval polls and the uptick in President Barack Obama’s polling against Mitt Romney. That’s turning the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016 into a highly coveted prize that could draw out more candidates.
Smith worked the crowd with his usual good-ol’-boy gusto, telling attendees that internal Democratic Party polling shows Sen. Bill Nelson 21 points ahead of Republican challenger Connie Mack IV. That’s great for Nelson if it’s true—other polls show him with a significant lead, but not that large.
Sink, however, is probably the favorite of the home-town crowd. Recent polls have shown her beating Crist in a hypothetical Democratic primary race, and running better against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.