Democrat Meek, Republican Rubio Win U.S. Senate Bids

Billionaire Jeff Greene suffers huge loss
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: August 24, 2010 9:29 PM
Happy Kendrick Meek

Kendrick Meek overwhelmed in victory in Hollywood Tuesday night Credit: Steven Martine

Despite billionaire Jeff Greene unleashing millions against him, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate election on Tuesday.

He now faces the general election challenge of catching former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who won the Republican nomination easily, and Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running without party affiliation.

CNN called the race less than a half-hour after the poll closed. With more than 489,000 votes counted, Meek carried 55 percent and Greene pulled 33 percent. Health educator Glenn Burkett placed third with 7 percent while former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre trailed with 5 percent.

"Tonight, Floridians sent a clear message - they want a real Democrat representing them in the U.S. Senate," said Meek. "I am the only candidate who supports a woman's right to choose and equal pay for equal work, has fought against privatizing Social Security, and will repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and cut taxes for the middle class."

"Floridians need leaders who are willing to stand up for middle-class families -- tireless fighters who know what it means to tackle big issues," added Meek. "They deserve leaders who will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve Social Security and will stand with President Obama to rebuild Florida's middle class. Most of all, Floridians want leaders who will fight for them all the time, not just when it helps their own political career or advances an extreme philosophy."

Meek Wins at Podium

Credit: Steven Martine

"The naysayers said we couldn't beat a billionaire, and tonight with your help, we proved them wrong," said Meek. "We have the momentum in this race, and over the next 70 days, we'll make sure that every Floridian knows that there is just one candidate who will fight for everyday Florida families. In 10 weeks, Floridians will prove the naysayers wrong once more and send a real Democrat to Washington, D.C."

"Kendrick is the strong nominee our party needs in November," said Karen Thurman, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party. "He is the only real Democrat in this race against not one, but two lifelong conservatives who have consistently stood against the middle class.”

In his concession speech at a party in West Palm Beach, Greene said, "I'm a Democrat, and I will do anything I can to make sure we have a Democratic controlled Senate and Kendrick Meek is elected senator from the state of Florida." Greene pledged to back Meek both on the trail and with his wallet.

Rubio easily defeated William Escoffery and William Billy Kogut for the Republican nomination. With more than 787,000 votes counted, Rubio carried 84 percent of the vote.

“Marco Rubio is a principled leader with a conservative vision for our country that stands in stark contrast to the tax-and-spend, big-government agenda of Barack Obama, Kendrick Meek and the Washington Democrats, and the flip-flopping political opportunism demonstrated by Charlie Crist,” said Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

“Floridians can trust Marco to be a strong and consistent voice in Washington,” added Thrasher. “We know he’ll fight to lower the burden of taxes facing Florida’s families and businesses, protect seniors and work to improve education, so that our children are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.”

A poll from Public Policy Polling released on Tuesday revealed that Meek had his work cut out for him. The poll found Rubio taking 40 percent with Crist behind at 32 percent and Meek at 17 percent.

Meek has portrayed himself as the “real Democrat” in the race and it’s working to some extent. For the first time in months, Meek is outpolling Crist with Democrats, edging the governor 39 to 38 percent. Having highlighted his support from established Democrats like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Meek appears to have stopped the hemorrhaging of support from his base -- which is bad news for Crist.

The poll of 567 Florida voters was taken on Aug. 21 and 22, and had a margin of error of  +/- 4.1 percent.

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