Nan Rich says she supports engagement with Cuba

  • Nan Rich talks issues with students at the University of Tampa.

In Florida, most Democrats share a core philosophy, certainly in comparison to their Republican counterparts.

Except on the issue of Cuba. That's where South Florida Democrats (none bigger than Debbie Wasserman Schultz) join in common cause with their colleagues across the aisle in continuing to believe that the economic embargo on the Communist island is somehow beneficial to Floridians. Obviously pressures from the exile community in Miami have a lot to do with that.

So that made it newsworthy on Tuesday night when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich said she is now leaning toward ending the sanctions.

"If you've done something for 51 years (and it hasn't worked), we should try something else," she told a group of about two dozen students and other supporters at Plant Hall on the University of Tampa campus.

Rich noted that former Florida Senator Bob Graham had gone to Cuba last month to discuss oil spill prevention and preparedness, and had come away with the opinion that it's not healthy that there is no relationship between two nations so physically close to each other. Graham said he still supports sanctions on Cuba, "but I also support a process that will try to move us toward normalization."

"I guess I look at the fact that we have ties, relationships with other countries that are equally in violation of human rights and we managed to do that," Rich said in Tampa. "It needs to be looked at," adding that that lots of exchanges could potentially occur between the two countries that could be beneficial for the U.S. economy.

Rich also noted Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor's announcement last spring that she supports ending the economic sanctions, a stance she took after visiting Cuba last year. Castor followed up by co-sponsoring a bill that would expand the relative freedom to travel from just Cuban Americans to all U.S. citizens and residents (a bill that appears to be going nowhere in Congress).

Rich was in good spirits on Tuesday, highlighting the endorsement she received earlier in the day from former lieutenant governor and congressman Buddy McKay. "Our iPhones have been burning up with tweets and emails congratulating me for getting this endorsement. This is a man of integrity, a true Democrat. I'm extremely proud," she acknowledged.

She again repeated her call to have a number of debates with her much better known opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, Charlie Crist. "So people can decide for themselves who better represents their values and differences."

Although Rich is being swamped in fundraising by Crist (she's raised $269,148 to Crist's $4 million), the former Senate minority Leader remains steadfast in her belief that she's the best candidate to run against Rick Scott later this year. Citing Graham, Lawton Chiles and Barack Obama ("who would have ever thought that Florida elected a little-known African-American candidate in our state, and subsequently in 2012?," she asked). "I intend to be the first woman governor elected to the state."

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