Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hillsborough Democrats get fired up at fundraising dinner

Posted by on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn & Newark, N.J. Mayor Corey Booker meet the press before Saturday nights event
  • Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn & Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker meet the press before Saturday night's event
If the number one objective among Florida Democrats is to get Barack Obama elected this November, their second biggest is to get one of their own elected to the governor's mansion two years from now.

That's why Saturday night's Kennedy-King dinner for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party at the Tampa Convention Center was more than just a get-together of the local party faithful to raise funds and spirits before the general election.

The star attraction was one of the up and coming stars of the party from the Northeast. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, who gave a dynamic speech to end the evening (see CL reporter Michael Newberger's story).

But the undercard presented several already declared or potential candidates in 2014 who will vie for the Democratic nomination for governor.

South Florida State Senator Nan Rich is the only official candidate for governor at this time, and was one of the first speakers of the evening. Most of her comments focused on what it's like to be a Democrat in Republican controlled Tallahassee, referring to the 26 anti-choice bills proposed in the Legislature the past two sessions as evidence of a GOP-led war on women.

As leader of the Florida Democratic Senate, Rich took umbrage of a column written back in March by Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith that called Florida Democrats "invisible and irrelevant."

"It was those invisible and irrelevant Democrats who delivered a defeat of the worst bill of the session, the parent-trigger bill," she said, which would have given parents overarching power to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools.

Florida Democratic party chair Rod Smith has a reputation for giving passionate stemwinders, and did so again on Saturday night. Referencing Mitt Romney's now infamous Boca Raton speech that blasted 47 percent of the country essentially as freeloaders.

"A man who says people who didn't pay taxes consider themselves victims. Well let me just tell you a little about that. ...those victims are people like my son-in-law, who happens to be a chaplain in the Army, who two years ago spent a year in Iraq praying over and counseling with our soldiers. And under the law they didn't pay any income tax that year, but I don't believe he was mooching on the country!"

Smith also used a very personal situation in life to give a personal shout out to health care reform supported by Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress. His 25-year-old son has been diagnosed with cancer, and because of the change of the law can afford to be treated while under his parents health care plan.

"So when someone says the Affordable Care Act doesn't matter, I can tell you it makes a real difference!" he shouted as about half the crowd of several hundred rose from their seats applauding.

Also in the house were arguably the two favorites for the nomination for governor in 2014, former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and former Republican Governor Charlie Crist.

But the delicious opportunity to watch Crist address a roomful of Hillsborough Democrats was not to be, as the political independent was not given a speaking slot. Instead the only indication that he was in the room was when his name was called as part of an announcement of all the former elected officials in the hall. Crist is rumored to be seriously contemplating a return run for Florida's chief executive, but this time as a Democrat. But he has yet to make that conversion.

As for Sink, she spoke for just a few minutes, mostly giving tribute to various party officials and calling for all of those on the ballot in November to stand up and take a bow.

The first speaker of the night was Hillsborough area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who referred to her colleague and chairman on the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, now the GOP vice-presidential nominee.

Castor said she stood up to Ryan and his harsh Medicare voucher plan, and then blasted the entire Republican House caucus for it's "intransigence" in blocking proposals by President Obama and Democrats on trying to pass a jobs bill.

Like Nan Rich, Castor also took Republicans - the ones in D.C. - to task for their stance on female issues, saying "the Republican controlled House is the most anti-woman in the history of the Congress," referring to 55 bills she said proposed in the past two years that discriminated women in some fashion.

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