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Notes from the Florida Democrats Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

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Joy Reid, last night’s recipient of the award for Best National blog, covered all of the angles at the Florida Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.  It’s coverage like this that helped her win her award.  Her notes:

Kendrick Meek brought a cheering section … Gelber and Aronberg played nice … and Alex Sink’s mike went rogue. And a good time was had by all at this year’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

The Democratic faithful gathered at the Westin Diplomat hotel in Hallandale Beach Saturday for the annual event, which brought out all of the candidates for basically everything up for election in Florida. I was in the press box with some of the fine folks from the Florida political press corps. (Here are the first takes from Beth Reinhard (she’s also got all the good one-liners from the event), The Sun-Sentinel’s Tony Mann, who hits the toned down Meek-Greene face-off,  and AP reporter Brendan Farrington, who also focuses on Meek-Greene.)

Again, this is from the must-read Reid Report:

Attendees: 1,300

Cash raised: $700,000

Best speech: surprisingly enough, agriculture commissioner Scott Maddox. He spoke early and fired up the crowd, and party chairwoman Karen Thurman milked his “bring it on” line for the rest of the night.

Best dressed: tie between two of the state’s real fashionistas, rival District 17 Congressional candidates state Sen. Frederica Wilson and Haitian activist Marleine Bastien. Both also happen to be solid candidates for that job. I’d show you a pic, but my camera battery died.

Biggest entourage: Kendrick Meek. His team set up a rock-star entrance, with a press availability flanked by a throng of sign-holding supporters chanting “what do we want? Kendrick! When do we want him? Now!” The cheering section followed him up to the ballroom, too, creating a dramatic entrance no other candidate tried.

Dog that didn’t bark: Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg‘s primary is getting nastier by the day, but both A.G. candidates played nice. Gelber got more applause from the 1,000-plus politicos in the audience, but Aronberg got laughs when he slipped and said “if I’m not the candidate for governor…” He quickly corrected himself and drew applause for pledging to support the winner of the primary, even if it’s not him. Gelber did the same, though his speech had a few sharp elbows clearly addressed at his opponent.

Best case for GOTV: Ron Klein. He painted his extremist opponent Allen West as just that, calling him the “Palin/tea party candidate” and injected his race with more urgency than any other candidate.

Again, this post is exactly the kind of coverage you can read at The Reid Report:

Highest star wattage: You have to ask? DWS.

Most classy: Alex Sink. She was poised and composed as she pushed through her speech despite some serious mic problems. Sink also has a sharp but ladylike, “movie about the South” quality that doesn’t make for great stump speech theater, but which really might work for her when she’s debating her GOP opponents, especially if it’s creepy, menacing Rick Scott.

Other dog that didn’t bark: Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek skillfully avoided each other, though at one point I found myself in a bilateral conversation with both their press guys, only one of whom recognized the other… and they didn’t really attack each other that much in their pretty standard speeches. Before the speeches, however, Meek during his press avail accused Greene of trying to buy the election, and said that to Greene, a Senate seat is “just another thing” to purchase. Meek has yet to say he’ll support the winner of the primary if it’s Greene.

News made: not much, but Meek did confirm he’s preparing to go on TV soon. The ads are being produced by the same firm that made Barack Obama’s half hour infomercial. And mailboxes should start seeing Meek paper soon.

Applause meter: Meek won that one, and the crowd definitely seemed to be more in his corner. A big-up to his mother, Congresswoman Carrie Meek, elicited a partial standing ovation. Greene got polite applause from the Democratic diehard audience, but he was placed earlier in the program, somewhere between the Congressional candidates (earlier even than Maurice Ferre.) Lots of people milling around and not listening, though Greene did get applause when he pledged to support the primary winner if it’s not him. The other big applause-getters on the night (in descending order) were DWS, Gelber, and Aronberg.

One-liner of the night: Miami congressional candidate Joe Garcia, who is Cuban-American, had that one, when he said “”I can assure you that I am an American citizen. I’ve got [Republican gubernatorial candidate] Rick Scott’s hate mail to prove it.”

Blind item (heard at the JJ): at an event that was all about Democrats, there were definite Charlie Crist supporters in the House, and they were not civilians…

Blind item #2: a person very much connected to a recent “citizen” complaint about Kendrick Meek was at the event, wearing a staff badge for the Jeff Greene campaign. The person told me they had just become a staffer.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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