This Weeks Hero: Kendrick Meek
Kendrick Meeks bid to become the next senator from Florida might have crashed on the rocks of a shrinking Democratic base, but wow didnt the Miami congressman show a lot of Floridians that political candidacy and human decency need not be mutually exclusive.
Nobody worked harder, talked straighter, kept the discourse more civil.
And nobody, by the way, had to slog through such a swamp of lesser men to keep his promise to the people who supported him.
In his victory speech Election Night, Marco Rubio said it all. Congressman Meek has given us a lesson in dignity and in strength. The crowd agreed, responding with cheers.
Meek got 20 percent of the 5,338,754 votes cast in the Senate race, behind Republican Rubios 49 percent and partyless Charlie Crists 30 percent.
He could have used his concession speech to gouge the living fur out of Gov. Charlie Crist, the no-party-affiliation candidate who, with no real support base of his own, did his best to steal Meeks.But Meek didnt stoop. He rose above rancor, congratulating Crist on his campaign.
It wasnt effusive congratulations, nor should it have been. But Meek stayed true to his earliest campaign promise to take the courteous, decent high road.
He made a particular point of congratulating Rubio for standing on principle.
And whether you agree with him or not, principle is a big deal to Kendrick Meek. Remember his campaign:
He said somebody has to be there to represent the disenfranchised. That would be me, he announced, and proceeded to campaign hardest in neighborhoods where unemployment is high or poverty a transparent reality.
He said he backs President Barack Obamas health-care plan: The president campaigned on that and was elected at least partly on that and thats what the American people still want affordable health care.
He said giving tax breaks to the rich would be a mistake. You cant talk about bringing down the deficit and creating jobs while youre cutting taxes for the richest Americans.
Kendrick Meek did not have a winning message. Not this cycle of tea parties and anti-government angst. But he had the message he believed in, the one hed had from the beginning. He didnt flip-flop. He made no promises he couldnt deliver. And when former President Bill Clinton and many others in his own dysfunctional Party said he should consider stepping aside for the more electable Crist, he said no, no way, no chance. I promised my supporters, I'm in it till the end.
Kendrick Meek didnt win the election but hes no loser. I'm betting we'll see him in public office again perhaps sooner rather than later.
This Week's Zero: Karen Thurman
My best guess is, its not a pretty day in Thurmanland. The sun isn't shining, the birds aren't singing, there is no peace in this valley.
For Karen Thurman, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, it must be like somebody dropped a 10-ton bomb and shes wandering through the rubble.
Close your eyes and you can almost hear her screaming.
I wish I could let Thurman off the hook. She has enough of her own soldiers gunning for her, she doesnt need me. Sadly, though, she turns out to be just another Democrat who, like failed gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, blames somebody or something else President Barack Obama, the National Democratic Party, Democratic policies she doesnt want and cant sell not just for an abysmal result in the 2010 Florida midterm elections, but for a sorry performance all around.
Sorry, Karen, but you are part of the Democrats problem in Florida.
Florida Dems raised $36 million this cycle, and you, Karen -- yes, it was you -- burned through the lot. But, to what purpose? Lets see what donors money accomplished:
* Only 51 Democrats are left in the Legislature 12 out of 40 in the Senate, 39 out of 120 in the House.
Gone are five incumbent House Democrats, including Policy Chair Keith Fitzgerald of Sarasota, Debbie Boyd of Newberry, Janet Long of Seminole, Bill Heller of St. Petersburg, and Adam Fetterman of Port St. Lucie.
Democrats are going to be like whales in a big ocean, so few in number they can barely find each other, let alone make time to mate on a bill. Im talking about not enough Dems to bring down bad legislation or block an attempt to waive the rules or say no to a constitutional amendment they dont like.
* In the next session of Congress, because four Democratic incumbents were ousted in the 2010 elections, Florida Republicans will outnumber Democrats 19 to 6.
The only coup if you can call it one is the election of Frederica Wilson in the district Kendrick Meek represented. But that district is so overwhelmingly Democratic, it was barely contestable anyway. Wilson joins Ted Deutch, who was elected in April to replace Robert Wexler. Trouble is, these two are both rookies. Newbies. Their clout in the House on any committee is unlikely to resonate for a long time.
* Other prominent Democrats have bones to pick with their leadership.
Kendrick Meek, a U.S. representative, had to fight his own Party not only for legitimacy, but for the right to keep his candidacy going.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings hasnt forgiven Party leadership for failing to back Meeks bid for a Senate seat, instead flirting with Gov. Charlie Crist a darling of the limousine liberals. Hastings said Thurman completely failed to take control of the situation.
U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown considers she was screwed over by her Partys FairDistricts Amendments (5 and 6), which passed Tuesday.
South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is indeed a rising star in Congress, a chief deputy whip and one of Speaker Nancy Pelosis top lieutenants. But the Florida Party has had little to do with her rise. As one of her aides told Sunshine State News, Rep. Wasserman Schultz is a thoroughbred, and the way things are going, thank heaven for that.
It's no secret that the Democratic Party, even here on the state level, is in disarray. Many of its most active participants state Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate, for instance have lostfaith with its leadership and want Thurman out.
Admittedly, not all of this is Karen Thurmans fault, as she says. But some of it is. And its that little tic in her character, that failure to acknowledge the $36-million-down-the-drain, walking-wounded reality, that propels her into the slot as this weeks Zero.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.