Democratic conference is last chance for Nan Rich to make a case before Crist’s entry

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Walt Disney World is known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” and for Florida Democrats descending on Orlando this weekend for a statewide conference, it could be just that.  

With Gov. Rick Scott’s low poll numbers and the  post-shutdown unpopularity of the GOP, the Florida Democratic Party has “the wind at its back,” spokesperson Joshua Karp tells The Palm Beach Post. More than 1,500 party faithful is expected to attend the Disney conference.

“The Republican brand has never been more tarnished and, here in Florida, Democrats have the advantage of a governor who Floridians fundamentally don’t trust,” Karp added. “Democratic enthusiasm has never been higher.”

When talking about the governor’s race, however, Democrats are not focused on former state Sen. Nan Rich, the only declared Democrat actively running for the seat. All the air in the room goes to Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat who was governor from 2007 to 2011.

Crist has not yet announced a run to regain his old job, but insiders say he is waiting for the new campaign financing laws to kick in November 1, which allow $3,000 in donations to statewide candidates as opposed to the current level of $500. His entry in the race could destroy the competition in fundraising, just by name recognition alone — including Rich’s.

For Rich, the Orlando event is an opportunity to spread the word about her campaign. In June, she was denied the chance to speak at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Democratic dinner. Rich was told there “wasn’t enough time.”

“I’m actually getting two speaking slots. We’ve come a long way,” Rich told the Post.  The South Florida liberal is scheduled to speak both at Saturday dinner and at the closing session on Sunday. It could be Rich’s last chance to make her case to party supporters before Crist enters the race.

The Republican Party of Florida also was quick to pounce Thursday in advance of the weekend Democratic forum, with a conference call with reporters that focused mainly on Crist’s possible candidacy.

“When it comes to standing up for principles,” said Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day, “Charlie Crist is the first one to run out of the room.” 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.