Nan Rich to Florida mainstream media: Don't count me out

"It's like the Tortoise and the Hare," said Rich about her low-key campaign.

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Perhaps one reason why the media hasn't focused much on her nascent campaign is that it isn't so nascent anymore. Rich officially declared herself a candidate more than a year ago, though she admitted she lost control of her own narrative when making that announcement.

It was after the 2012 legislative session ended last April, when Rich was attending a Broward County Democratic Executive Committee Meeting (she lives in Weston in Broward County). She said a group of Democrats cried out to her, asking her if she was going to run, and when. Though she wanted to say she was going to wait to announce her candidacy later in the year, she admitted that she would run. She joked that the tape of making that admission was already on YouTube before she got home, so yeah, she was in.

At a Tiger Bay Club meeting on Tuesday in St. Petersburg, GOP state legislators continued to defend their refusal to accept the federal government's plan to expand Medicaid. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said that the feds were unreliable, a comment that set off Rich.

"Really? Tell me what program have you not been able to trust the federal government? Medicare? Social Security? All the transportation dollars they take in this state? It's an answer because there is no answer to what they were doing," she exclaimed.

Just like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn often talks about how other mayors like Detroit's Dave Bing "thank him" for federal transit funds that became available after Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion two years ago to fund a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, Rich said California Congresswoman Karen Bass recently reached out to her at a Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth meeting in Miami. Bass "thanked" Rich for what she said was an extra billion dollars that helped fund the high-speed rail line that will ultimately connect San Francisco to Los Angeles.

"It is unconscionable," she continued on about the rejection of the $51 billion that would have helped provide health care insurance for close to one million people. "That's our taxpayer dollars and we're already a donor state."

And don't get her started on Rick Scott's leadership on the issue.

"He did nothing," said Rich after the governor stunned many Republicans by saying in February that he would accept the federal government's offer on Medicaid expansion, which guaranteed no state monies for the first three years of the program under "Obamacare," and only a 10 percent match after.

"Speaker Weatherford hadn't met with him. (Richard) Corcoran, (Steve) Crisafulli hadn't met with him, so he did nothing to broker a deal," said Rich, adding that the governor was also missing in action when it came to a bill on assisted living facilities (ALF). "We have abuse, neglect and death in assisted living facilities, documented in those incredible articles in the Miami Herald, and the governor created a task force, and what did he do after that? He did nothing, he put mostly providers on the task force, and then he did nothing to go over to the Legislature and say to the leaders, 'I want this bill. I want to take care of the most vulnerable people in this state.'"

Rich can go toe-to-toe with anyone when it comes to health care and education issues. But she also thinks that her secret weapon is her gender. Though 1992 has always been considered "the year of the women" (after four women were elected to the U.S. Senate and female membership in the House went from 28 to 47), Rich said she thinks 2014 could be the same in the Sunshine State.

"As I travel around the state ... there is just a strong desire to have a qualified woman, and not just a woman, but a qualified woman," said Rich, emphasizing she absolutely believes that Alex Sink is equally qualified if she chooses to enter the contest. She added that President Obama took the women's vote last fall in Florida and "I believe we can we keep that momentum going in this next election, and I think the women will make the difference in this election."

(And a feather in Rich's cap: The Florida National Organization for Women have endorsed Rich for governor. FL NOW'S Lisa Labbe confirmed that news with CL Wednesday morning. That news has not officially gone out yet).

  • Nan Rich

When Nan Rich's name is mentioned in stories about the Democratic race for governor in Florida, it's generally an after-thought, long after paragraphs that are given to the prospects of Charlie Crist, Bill Nelson, and sometimes even Pam Iorio.

But when the debates take place next year, Rich plans to be there, and she'll be as well prepared as anyone when it comes to talking policy and what prescriptions she believes are needed to improve the state for all of its citizens.

The self-described policy wonk is traveling all around the state these days, getting a much needed head start against her undoubtedly wealthier, soon-to-be opponents. On Tuesday afternoon, she stopped by CL's Ybor City office for a chat.

"It's like the Tortoise and the Hare," the 71-year-old former state legislator said when discussing her strategy. "I look at myself as the tortoise in this race. I'm methodically going around the state, and it's a slow process. It takes a lot of time and effort, but I believe in the grassroots. I believe in creating this infrastructure around the state. I don't know if any of the other people (running) would take this strategy. I don't know, but I don't think so. I feel that the time that I've put in is going to stand me in good stead when people start paying attention."

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