The call came late Tuesday night. It was from Ana Cruz, the ultra-connected Tampa political consultant helping to direct Congressman Kendrick Meek’s campaign for the US Senate: Would I like to interview Meek for my blog, she asked.
She already knew my answer would be a resounding ‘Yes’. I had been e-mailing back-and-forth with Kenneth Quinnell, the progressive blogger who is now leading Meek’s efforts to connect with new media.
Me, a blogger. A card-carrying member of the new media.
I couldn’t say ‘Yes” quick enough. It wasn’t just an opportunity for me to talk with Congressman Meek. It was an opportunity for a blogger to interview a candidate for the US Senate. I’ve been googling to find another instance where Meek sat down for an interview with a blogger and am hard-pressed to do so.
So I did my research and got ready to do my best Charlie Rose. Because what I wanted was an esoteric conversation that would give me a sense of Meek’s personal historical narrative. So my first question wasn’t about this campaign, but Meek’s sit-in of the governor’s office in 2000 to protest Jeb Bush’s effort to eliminate some of Florida’s affirmative action programs.
“It didn’t begin as a sit-in,” said Meek. “It started as an effort to have a dialogue…The governor warned us that we had better get our blankets.” Meek and Rep. Tony Hill did just that, hunkering down in the capitol in an act of civil disobedience in one of the final clashes of the American Civil Rights movement.
It is that kind of counter-intuitive political instinct that has Meek running for the US Senate against (if the polls hold) an inordinately popular governor. I handed Meek a copy of the article by Malcolm Gladwell titled “How David Beats Goliath.”
“How did you know this was our theme?” Meek asked. In fact, Meek emphasized how his campaign was going to use unorthodox tactics to win the election. Meek stressed how committed he was to qualifying for the ballot via petition, a first for a statewide candidate. Both Meek and Cruz reiterated the campaign’s commitment to new media, not just paying lip service, but to substantive outreach. “The way we make this a national campaign — and this will be a national campaign — is by incorporating the new media, the blogs, by using Twitter,” said Cruz.
Cruz acknowledged the campaign still had a lot of work to do. By my count, Congressman Meek has about 750 followers on Twitter, far less than Marco Rubio’s 4,000 plus. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Meek said he was excited to earn the endorsement of Barack Obama’s Florida director Steve Schale.
Maybe that’s why Congressman Meek granted an interview to this blogger. I have a lot more to write about my interview with Congressman Meek, including what he thought about Bill Clinton’s foray into North Korea, what Meek expects to happen with Obama’s health care initiatives, what he thinks of Charlie Crist and what’s on his iPod.