With the Florida Democratic Primary for Governor only a few months away, many prominent progressives have been quiet regarding the primary. While many Democrats have different reasons for getting involved in the primary process, some who would naturally be supporting a progressive candidate and not a long-time Republican officeholder have been strangely silent.
Democrats have two major candidates running for Governor: Charlie Crist is a former Republican who legislated on a center-right platform during his time in the Florida Senate and served from a similar posture as Commissioner of Education, Attorney General and Governor. Nan Rich, on the other hand, has been a strong progressive on most of the issues. As far as the historical context of their voting records and issue positions, there is a stark contrast between the two candidates.
So why are some prominent progressives staying quiet in this race? Those who have led grassroots progressive movements over the last few years have yet to make their intentions known in this critical contest. Why is this the case?
Let’s take a look at Ruth’s List, a group that supports pro-choice Democratic women in Florida. Again, the organization has not made any endorsement in this race. This is odd considering that former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich is a progressive, Democratic, pro-choice woman. Usually this criteria would mean an automatic endorsement by Ruth’s List, especially when running against a center-right, former Republican male who claimed he was pro-life as a Republican. But in this case, it does not seem to be good enough.
Emily’s List a national organization that supports Pro-Choice Democratic women. They were in the forefront with Betty Castor and Alex Sink in previous statewide elections here in Florida. However, in this race they are conspicuously absent.
Of course, there are some progressives who have voiced their strong support for Nan Rich. Susan Smith, of the Democratic Progressive Caucus, has been true to her roots and supports Senator Rich. Also, The National Organization for Women (NOW), Florida NOW and the non-partisan National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida have all endorsed Nan Rich enthusiastically. This makes the lack of a Ruth’s List or Emily’s List endorsement even more puzzling. In feminist circles some discussion is abound that the absence of support for Senator Rich by Ruth’s List is marginalizing the organization from the women’s activist community.
It is not like Nan Rich has failed to garner significant institutional support either. Former Governor Buddy MacKay has endorsed Senator Rich, as has as Senator Dwight Bullard, Senator Arthenia Joyner, Representative Katie Edwards and Palm Beach Tax Collector Anne Gannon among others. With these high-profile endorsements, it is even more puzzling why some progressives have not made an endorsement in this race.
Some progressives may believe that Crist is an acceptable choice for Governor. But Nan Rich is without question more progressive. Not only was she progressive in the Florida Senate, but many times one of the most (if not the most) progressive members of the Florida Legislature. Even many die-hard Crist supporters agree that Nan Rich is more progressive than their choice. So, are those so-called progressives who haven’t endorsed Nan Rich really progressives, or are they just looking for a candidate that can win, even if they have a conservative voting record? Are they secretly supporting Crist, but cannot claim this support because it will hurt their legitimacy as progressive activists? One must wonder if selling out on values is the best way to promote progressive activism.
One interesting thing about many of those so-called progressives is that they have one common link — Christopher Findlater. Many of you might remember this name from the FDP Chair’s race as the person who has pumped money into Florida politics over the last few years. To date, he has funneled $3.57 million into these activities through a number of strategically placed organizations. Some of the benefactors of Mr. Findlater’s money include Florida Watch Action (an organization in which he was highly involved and a founder) and Ruth’s List (giving the organization, which was struggling at the time, $47,000 in one of his first contributions in the state).
The next several weeks will be interesting to see whether more progressives join with Senator Rich’s campaign, or whether they continues to sit on the sidelines in this primary.