Former congressman Robert Wexler has been out of politics for nearly a year, but in his home state of Florida he still has a say, especially with the state’s large Jewish community.
That is why Wexler’s endorsement of governor Charlie Crist for Florida’s Senate seat drew much attention. Wexler preferred to back the Republican-turned-Independent candidate over his own party member, Democratic congressman Kendrick Meek.
“There is a special time in which elected officials, and people to which people look to, have to put country before party,” Wexler said about his decision, “and this is one of those times.”
In his endorsement speech, Wexler, who is Jewish, touted Crist’s credentials on issues close to Democratic voters: women’s rights, public education, and voting rights. “He earned our support,” Wexler said. His endorsement came at a time when Crist’s Democratic rival is running campaign ads portraying him as a staunch conservative. The ads show clips of Crist in his former Republican affiliation praising Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush and stating he is a “pro-life, pro-gun, anti tax-Republican.”
The venue is also worth noting. Wexler delivered his endorsement of Crist at a campaign event in Boca Raton’s Century Village, the quintessential South Florida Jewish senior citizen retirement community.
Wexler was elected seven times to represent Florida’s 19th district, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, both rich in Jewish voters. He resigned in January to head the Center for Middle East Peace, a Washington think-tank funded by Daniel Abraham. He has since also been rumored to be a candidate for U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Wexler’s endorsement of Crist could turn out to be significant for Florida’s Jewish voters. While the state’s Jewish community is considered to be strongly on the Democratic side, Jewish voters could chose to go with Crist in order to block Republican candidate Marco Rubio. Meek is trailing both Rubio and Crist in the polls.
Although former congressman Wexler threw his support behind Crist, Kendrick Meek still has the endorsement of current South Florida Jewish lawmakers. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Ron Klein, and Ted Deutch, who took over Wexler’s seat, all support their fellow Democrat Meek.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Wexler Crosses Party Lines to Endorse Crist