Three Senate Contenders Fight Hard for Florida Seat

Charles Crist (I), Marco Rubio (R), and Kendrick Meek (D)
Charles Crist (I), Marco Rubio (R), and Kendrick Meek (D)

Published September 13, 2010.

Polls

This race pits Republican Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, and the recently declared Independent Charlie Crist, the former Republican who is now Florida’s governor. A September 29 Rasmussen Reports poll based on a telephone survey put Rubio in the lead with 41%. Crist trailed with 30% and Meek had 21%. Congressional Quarterly calls it a tossup. Crist, Meek and Rubio are vying for the seat left open by junior senator George LeMieux, a Republican whom Crist appointed after Senator Mel Martinez’s surprise resignation in 2009. LeMieux decided not to run for reelection, paving the way for this three-way race.


Biographies

Kendrick Meek
Party: Democratic
Age: 43
Religion: Baptist

Background: Meek has worked on the Florida Highway Patrol and served in the state’s Senate and House of Representatives. In 2002 he was elected to the U.S. House seat held by his mother, who was retiring. He sits on the Committee on Ways and Means.

Charlie Crist
Party: Independent
Age: 54
Religion: Methodist

Background: This current governor of Florida left the Republican Party in April. He formerly worked as a lawyer, Florida state senator and attorney general.

Marco Rubio
Party: Republican
Age: 39
Religion: Roman Catholic

Background: Rubio is a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. His agenda is made clear in his book, “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future,” and he is seen as embodying Tea Party sentiment.


Issues

Israel

Rubio, a vocal Israel supporter, has criticized pressure from the United States on Israel to freeze its settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. He views efforts to achieve a two-state solution before “a waning of extremism” in the region as “putting the cart before the horse.” Rubio states that Israel faces a “concerted global effort to delegitimize [its] right to exist,” and stresses the importance of American military aid to Israel.

Meek, a supporter of the two-state solution, criticized Obama’s “undiplomatic language” to Israel and, in 2004, co-sponsored legislation supporting Israel’s construction of a security fence to keep out Palestinian infiltrators. He says that “the world must recognize Israel’s right to exist and its need for secure borders.” Meek supports the settlement freeze.

Crist says that Israel, “one of our best allies on the planet,” deserves respect. He met with Benjamin Netanyahu in 2007.

Iran

Rubio says Iran is a threat to Israel and America, and states he would support an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran: “Israel has to do whatever it needs to do for their national security. You would hope the United States… would prevent that from needing to happen.”

Meek says Iran cannot be allowed to secure nuclear weapons, and he advocates diplomatic, economic and political sanctions to achieve that end.

Crist supports United Nations sanctions against Iran. In 2007 he signed a law making Florida the first state to divest its pension funds from companies that do business with the Iranian and Sudanese governments.

Iraq /Afghanistan

Meek, formerly a member of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized George W. Bush’s change of military focus to Iraq from Afghanistan and has consistently advocated for a decrease in American forces in Iraq.

Rubio says the world is safer because of the Iraq War. He lauds the 2007 troop surge, as well as the 2009 Afghanistan surge.

Counterterrorism and Civil Liberties

Meek supports closing the prison facility for alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, saying that it has become a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. He also supports prosecuting terrorists “with the full force of the law” and continued use of military commissions. He opposes warrantless wiretapping and interrogation techniques, such as water boarding.

Rubio supports keeping terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay. He also supports military tribunals.

Health Care and Social-Security Reform

Rubio has been petitioning to repeal the health care reform legislation. He has suggested raising the age for Social Security and Medicare eligibility to ensure solvency.

Meek voted for the health care bill and vows to protect Medicare for Florida’s seniors. Meek is against raising the age for Social Security and Medicare and against the privatization of Social Security.

Crist told the talk show “Morning Joe” that the health care bill raises rates and taxes, and that Republicans are “doing the right thing” by speaking out against it. (He had pledged to repeal the bill, but then switched parties and dropped the pledge.) His campaign, however, issued a statement saying that he would not have voted for it. Crist doesn’t want to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and said he would focus on cutting costs by minimizing fraud.

Abortion

Crist says that though he’s personally opposed to abortion, he will not seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports abortion rights. In June, he vetoed a Florida bill that would have required a woman seeking abortion to pay for an ultrasound. His position has changed: A radio station reported that his website removed anti-abortion rights language.

Rubio is anti-abortion rights, as he believes that life begins at conception. He voted to require ultrasounds before abortions (the bill that Crist vetoed) and voted against embryonic stem-cell funding.

Meek favors federal funding for stem-cell research and voted against banning partial-birth abortion. He believes in upholding Roe v. Wade under all circumstances.

Same-Sex Marriage

Rubio is against gay marriage. He believes marriage is between a man and a woman, and says he has “mixed feelings” about the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Crist opposes gay marriage, but recently released a position paper that was lauded by gay-rights activists. After opposing gay adoption, he changed his position to support it in the paper. He supported a 2008 amendment in Florida’s state constitution that bans gay marriage, though he has opposed a similar federal law, saying it’s a state-decided issue.

Meek supports civil unions and equal partnership benefits in Florida. Regarding gay marriage he said that it “is an issue that should be resolved at the state level.” He opposed the federal same-sex marriage ban.

Islamic Center

Crist says he agrees with the statements of President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in support of the mosque.

Rubio disagrees with Crist and Obama. He calls the plan “divisive and disrespectful,” maintaining that “we cannot be blind to the pain 9/11 caused our nation.”

Meek says that because of America’s religious freedoms, the construction should not be denied on religious grounds, and it’s up to New York: He’s “not going to step in front of a decision that’s already been made in New York City.”


The Campaign

Marco Rubio (R)

Last report: August 4, 2010

Charlie Crist (I)

Last report: August 4, 2010

Kendrick B. Meek (D)

Last report: August 4, 2010

Source: Open Secrets.org

Meek was targeted during the primary by mailers that cast him as anti-Israel, but Jewish groups rushed to his defense.

A group of Jews formed against Crist, citing his refusal to meet with Jewish coalition leaders last February and his green-lighting of the execution of a retarded Jewish man whose testimony was recanted. Crist has brought his fight for the Jewish vote into senior homes.


Demographics

As of 2007, out of 18,089,888 Floridians, 654,935 — or 3.6% — are Jewish. But their influence may be diminishing: A study of Broward County shows that the Jewish population is being diluted as the elderly are not replaced there.



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