Kendrick Meek on why he's sponsoring a NASCAR race driver at the Daytona 500

Meek's appeal to the red-neck crowd is daring, but also probably essential if he is to become the first black elected to a statewide office in the sunshine state.  NASCAR has had to deal with charges that it's an essentially white-only sport, charges that went into high gear when former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant filed a sexual and racial harassment suit against NASCAR (Grant is black.  The case was dismissed last week after the two parties reached a settlement in December).

In an interview that will be published by CL later this week, one of Meek's Democratic Party opponents in the Senate race, former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre said that one reason that Meek was doing outreach to NASCAR nation is that he needs to expand his liberal base, saying, " it shows you that he understands his weakness. " Ferre says that Floridians generally support centrists, and believes Meek is too far to the left (though according to the National Journal in 2008, Meek's voting record puts him far from the top of the list when it comes to a liberal paper trail).

When asked about that, Meek seemed eager to brush back any such allegation, citing his service on the Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees,  as well as caring for military members and their families when they've returned from the theater of war.  He then said, "So we’re going to let the voters be the judge on who’s liberal and who’s moderate..I’m just going to lead, and I have a track record and overwhelming  evidence of fact vs. fiction and I believe voters are going to look for that..they’re going to look for clarity out of leadership, and I’m going to give them that. "

Kendrick Meek was in Tampa on Tuesday, where he spoke with local reporters about a number of subjects, including his unique sponsorship of NASCAR driver Mike Wallace's car #01 at the Daytona 500 this weekend.

The Miami area Democrat, who has been virtually ignored by most of the political press as the Charlie Crist-Marco Rubio death match continues to dominate national headlines, has been getting more coverage over the past week with his NASCAR buy-in.

When asked how much he was spending to sponsor Wallace's car, Meek said that was a question for his campaign staff.   (It's been reported that such sponsorships range between $50-$250,000).   He did say it was the first major expenditure of his campaign (he's yet to spend any cash on television or radio ads).  And he said his sponsorship will help promote his campaign, but also "promote what NASCAR brings to the state of Florida."

The Daytona 500 is unique compared to the other major sports in that its signature event begins its season, as opposed to ending it.  But the sport does end its season in Florida as well Meek reminded reporters, at Homestead in November.  "I'm glad that I can talk about the economics of it, but I can also talk to the NASCAR nation that I'll be a U.S. Senator that will be an advocate on behalf of racing, and also have everyone understand that NASCAR brings about an economic boom for the entire country."

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