Senate Candidates Tackle Kagan Nomination

Crist joins Democrats in backing Obama's pick to the bench
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 20, 2010 12:22 AM

Kagan at Table

Photo credit: www.whitehouse.gov

With hearings now scheduled for Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Florida’s candidates in the U.S. Senate election are weighing in on the matter.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, announced Wednesday that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will open confirmation hearings on Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court on June 28, with the goal of wrapping up before the July 4 recess. Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, claim the Democrats are rushing through the confirmation process.

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the likely Republican nominee, expressed his concerns about the Kagan nomination.

“While I look forward to learning more about Elena Kagan through the confirmation process, I have concerns about her lack of judicial experience and her role in implementing the ban on military recruiters while she was dean at Harvard Law School,” he said when the nomination was announced. “However, she deserves a fair hearing, and I believe both Democrats and Republicans have a duty to conduct a rigorous and intellectually honest review process on behalf of the American people“.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman offered strong backing of the Kagan nomination and the Senate candidates running for the Democratic nomination have followed suit.

"I applaud President Obama's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court,” said Thurman when the nomination was announced. “Solicitor General Kagan is possessed of both a brilliant mind and a keen sense of justice, and she has earned the respect of people on both sides of the aisle for her lifetime of work.”

Congressman Kendrick Meek, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat, came out strongly in support for the Kagan nomination.

"As the daughter of a public school teacher and a lawyer who defended tenants against powerful landlords, Elena Kagan understands firsthand how laws affect everyday people,” he said.

Meek followed up on Tuesday by sending a letter to U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, asking the Florida Republican to back Kagan’s nomination. Meek also called on Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the seat as an independent, to back the nomination.

Jeff Greene, a billionaire who made his fortune in real estate investments, also backs the Kagan nomination. Paul Blank, a spokesman for the Greene campaign, said Wednesday that his candidate had taken questions from the media and expressed his support of Kagan.

“He thinks she's a good choice,” said Blank.

Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, who is running for the Democratic nomination, expressed his support of the Kagan nomination on Wednesday.

“If I were in the Senate, I would vote to confirm her,” said Ferre. “I think Kagan is an excellent choice,” he said, adding that she could appeal to some moderates and Republicans. “My only objection is it's one more Ivy League justice. We need to get outside of Harvard and Yale.”

Crist expressed support for the Kagan nomination during a recent interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. “I think she’d do a great job,” he said.

Crist’s support for Kagan has led both Meek and Rubio to question his motives. Meek has said that Crist is inconsistent for supporting Kagan while opposing Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The Rubio camp is also blasting Crist for inconsistency.

“Just like he believes the law is whatever judges say it is on any given day, Charlie Crist’s support for judges clearly depends on which way he needs the political winds to carry him that day,” said Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos. “With such an erratic view of judges and judicial philosophy, Charlie Crist should explain exactly why he believes Elena Kagan would do a ‘great job.’”

Minor party candidates also weighed in on the Kagan nomination.

“She needs to make sure she follows the Constitution,” said Alex Snikter, the Libertarian candidate for the Senate seat. While he said he hasn't done enough research to strongly support or oppose the nomination, he added, “I don’t think she’s the right person for the job.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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