Former Gov. Buddy MacKay, the last Democrat to hold that office, on Tuesday endorsed former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, the "true Democrat," for governor.
Rich, the underdog against former Gov. Charlie Crist for the party nomination, said she is "sincerely honored" to have MacKay on her side, and if elected will pick up where "visionary leaders" MacKay and Gov. Lawton Chiles left off.
Now 80, MacKay has been active in Florida politics for decades. First elected to the Florida House in 1968, he won a state Senate seat in 1974. He failed in a 1980 bid for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, but was elected to Congress in 1982. When MacKay stepped up to run for the U.S. Senate in 1988, he was defeated by Republican Connie Mack. He bounced back in 1990 when he was elected lieutenant governor as Chiles running mate. Despite losing to Republican Jeb Bush in the 1998 gubernatorial election, MacKay would serve three weeks as governor after Chiles died in December of that year.
The veteran Democrat insists Rich is the one true Democrat in the race, as opposed to Crist, and praised her liberal credentials.
We need a strong Democrat to lead Florida again, and Nan Rich is the one true Democrat in the race for governor, MacKay said on Tuesday. Ive known Nan since before she was first elected to the Legislature. We worked together on many issues to improve the lives of children and families. In the Legislature, we could always count on her to be an effective advocate for public schools, seniors, and social justice issues. Nan Rich has the skills and experience we need to lead Florida and get our state back on the right track. She has my support and shell have my vote on Election Day.
Rich attempted to paint herself as the successor to both Chiles and MacKay.
Im sincerely honored to have the support of Governor MacKay, Rich said in a written statement. Buddy MacKay and Lawton Chiles were visionary leaders who cared deeply about the working people of Florida. Florida was in far better shape under their stewardship than it has been ever since. As governor, I intend to pick up where they left off and lead Florida into a new era of prosperity a Democratic era of a strong middle class and fairness for all.
Despite having entered the race in April 2012, a poll from Quinnipiac University released last week shows Rich remains largely unknown, with 7 percent viewing her as favorable, 6 percent as unfavorable and 86 percent not sure about her. Democrats are largely in the dark on Rich, with 84 percent not sure about her, though 12 percent see her as favorable and 4 percent have unfavorable views of her. The poll shows Democrats are in Crists corner despite his old GOP ties, with 67 percent seeing the former governor as favorable and 11 percent viewing him as unfavorable. Polls have shown Crist with a solid lead over Rich among Democratic primary voters.
The poll of 1,565 registered voters was taken from Jan. 22-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.