Rep. Kendrick Meek on Facing Crist and Rubio

Rep. Kendrick Meek on Facing Crist and Rubio

By The Situation Room - April 29, 2010

BLITZER: Let's get back to the dramatic story unfolding in Florida right now. It's official. There's a three-way race for the United States Senate. Infighting among Republicans leads the governor, Charlie Crist, to run for the Senate as an independent. Can Democrats now take advantage?

Let's go to Capitol Hill. The Democratic candidate, Congressman Kendrick Meek, is joining us now.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

Before we talk, we heard earlier from Charlie Crist. He announced why he's running now as an independent. Only moments ago, the Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, reacted. He made a brief statement, among other things, saying this:


MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: ... believed I was the only candidate in this race that would stand up to what was coming out of Washington and offer a clear alternative.

And nothing that has happened today has changed that. I remain the only candidate in this race that will stand up to this agenda and offer a clear alternative.

I knew that I was running against people who I thought are good people, but, quite frankly, I believe are wrong on the issues. I didn't realize I would have to run against both of them at the same time.

But that's the nature of what's been an interesting election year.


BLITZER: Who are you more worried about, Congressman? Would it be the governor, Charlie Crist, or Marco Rubio?

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D-FL), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I will tell you what I'm worried about. I'm worried about 12.3 percent unemployment in Florida right now,

I'm worried about that individual who does not have health care. Thank God we started working on it. I'm also worried about those veterans that are counting on a strong United States senator. The governor has been spending the last three weeks going back and forth on his political future.

Mr. Rubio is far right of many Floridians, and really will not grasp the reality of what's going on in everyday lives of Floridians. He's really picked up on a number of the national very conservative groups that have pushed his agenda, and they're counting on him.

The people of the state of Florida is counting on me. I'm very excited about this race. We qualified by signature. That's the best way to qualify, by the people of the state of Florida. So, I look forward to a good race.

BLITZER: But are you worried about one of these other two guys more than the other? Or are they both of equal concern to you?

MEEK: Well, let's put it this way.

When you're running in an election cycle such as this one, you're running in what I believe will be the third largest state after the census track is -- takes place, I'm -- I'm just worried about getting around the state, making sure that Florida voters know that I'm the best candidate in this race to be the next United States senator. I believe, Wolf, that we will win. I believe that I'm running against two Republicans. Regardless of what the governor said today, he is still the Republican governor of the state of Florida. And I guess, his night job will be running as an independent, and I think it's going to confuse a number of voters in the state.

BLITZER: You are pretty well known in South Florida, the Miami- Hollywood and Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, but up north, you're not that well known. That's a big problem for you, isn't it?

MEEK: Well, you got to remember, Wolf, both of these candidates spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last four, five months attacking one another based on credit cards and party problems and back-waxing. We have been going throughout the state of Florida, in parking lots, grocery stores, meeting with mayors, meeting with local communities about how I can be a good United States senator for all 67 counties in Florida. The election is not held today, and today, happens to be my mother's 84th birthday. So, this is a good day for her, and she's in Miami right now watching us, but I can tell you right now, I look forward, my entire family, and my campaign going throughout the state, and at the right time, we will be where we need to be. We haven't even bought a 15- second radio ad yet. Both of these candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting themselves.

BLITZER: Happy birthday to your mother, first of all.

MEEK: Thank you.

BLITZER: She's a lovely, lovely lady. But let's tackle about your strategy, do you want President Obama coming in to Florida, campaigning on your behalf?

MEEK: Absolutely. I mean, he's the president of the United States. The president who won the state of Florida. I count on his support. There are a few issues that we don't see eye to eye on, but you know, something I'm a representative of the people of the state. He's the president of the free world and the leader here has been elected to be president of the United States, and I look forward to working with -- with the president on the issues even when we disagree.

But we agree on more than we disagree on. I think it would be a benefit to the people of the state of Florida, at least an open conversation with the president, that someone has been very approachable, and I'm looking forward to building that relationship as we move through the season.

BLITZER: I suspect on one issue you strongly disagree with the president, the recent decision to support offshore oil drilling which Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the Democrat, he hates that decision. What about you?

MEEK: Oh, Senator Nelson and I are hand-in-hand on that issue. I did raise reservations with the administration. We were supposed to talk with not only the secretary of the interior, but also the White House on this very issue. I've been consistent as relates to being against offshore drilling in Florida. I can't say that by every candidate in the race. It was news flash as of two days ago that the governor switched his position once again on offshore oil drilling, and it's important. There's not one Chamber of Commerce along the Gulf Coast area, either be a Republican or Democratic county or what have you, they're saying that they want offshore oil drilling. What has happened now in the gulf is the perfect example that can wreck Florida's tourism economy, and we'll continue to work with the administration on that issue.

But that's the reason why Senator Nelson, that's the reason why I can go in to the White House and firsthand speak on behalf of Floridians. Should we look at proposals? Absolutely. Should we act on them? If it's going to result in what we have right now, absolutely not. And I look forward to representing the will and the desire of the people of the state of Florida when I become the next United States senator. BLITZER: This means, I assume, you're not going to seek re- election obviously in the House of Representatives. You're giving up your seat, right?

MEEK: Yes, sir. I'll just put it this way. I'm all in. I don't even know how to play poker, but I know they push their hands forward when they do it. I'm all in running for the United States Senate. That's been the case, and, Wolf, that has been a question that folks have been asking me, leaving a very safe congressional seat that my mother held that I'm now holding, but I look at this as an opportunity to serve the people of the state. Me being elected to the U.S. Congress is not a career, it's an opportunity.

BLITZER: Kendrick Meek is the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. Your folks are telling me you got to go vote, so I'm going to go let you vote. Thanks very much, congressman. Good luck.

MEEK: Thank you so very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kendrick Meek, Democrat of Florida. We've invited the other two candidates, Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, to join us here in the SITUATION ROOM. We hope they will in the next few days.


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