Crist to Speak to AFL-CIO in Jacksonville on Friday
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, up until last month a Republican, will step into a bastion of Democratic politics this weekend with a speech to the AFL-CIO of Florida as the union umbrella group vets candidates for possible endorsement.
Crist will speak at the AFL-CIO's endorsing convention in Jacksonville on Friday, and union officials will make a decision in a closed-door meeting on Sunday on who will get the union's endorsement in several races, including the United States Senate contest in which Crist is now an unaffiliated candidate.
The union will also hear from the man still widely expected to get its endorsement in that race, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who as a Democrat would in any other year be the only one thought to have a legitimate shot at the union's backing.
Other speakers include Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and state agriculture commissioner candidate Scott Maddox.
Delegates from across the state will determine after the weekend of speeches which candidates will receive the support of the over 500,000 workers and retirees of the Florida AFL-CIO.
Crist until recently wasn't yet competing for the same voters as Meek because he was mired in a Republican primary with Marco Rubio that polls showed Crist may have lost. But he is clearly reaching out to cross-over voters, now and with the decision to attend the AFL-CIO convention is obviously trying to get some attention from traditional Democrats as well.
The Meek campaign shrugged off the sudden appearance of Crist at an event normally attended mainly by Democratic candidates.
“He’s speaking on Friday and it’s in his capacity of governor, we’ll be there on Saturday,” Meek spokesman Adam Sharon said. “Its my understanding that both speeches are being given in their official capacities...From our perspective, this race is still one progressive and two conservatives.”
The AFL-CIO isn't the only union with a new interest in Crist. The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, has been running TV ads thanking Crist for a veto of a teacher merit pay bill.
The FEA may also make its endorsement in the Senate race this weekend, after officials with the teachers union also meet seperately in Jacksonville to discuss the candidates. FEA officials aren't tipping their hand, but one possibility may be a dual endorsement.
The teachers union endorsed Meek in the Democratic primary, and he has always been a darling of the education community - he is considered one of the fathers of the class-size measure in the constitution. Another connection to the teachers union: Meek's wife Leslie is the former general counsel for United Teachers of Dade, one of the largest local teachers unions in the nation.
Meanwhile, the Florida Federation of Republican Women on Tuesday announced it was endorsing Rubio in the race.
“The recent drama over Charlie Crist and his quest for yet another office has created the perfect storm in Florida politics,” said Cindy Graves President of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. "The defection from seeking a second term followed by the defection from the party and the fleecing of our donors has made it necessary that the FFRW break with tradition and hit the campaign trail for the only Republican candidate who can win. We do know Marco, but we know Charlie too...we have a story to tell and we are going to enjoy telling it."