TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) -- Nan Rich is frustrated. That much is clear.
But the lifelong Democrat and former Senate minority leader isn't backing down. Rich told a gathering of news executives and editors Friday that she will continue battling for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and trying to draw distinctions with opponent Charlie Crist --- despite many of the party's fundraisers and leaders lining up behind the former Republican Crist.
"We need to make sure we don't have two Republicans running in the gubernatorial election,'' Rich said during a forum that was part of the annual convention of the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Rich wanted to debate Crist during the press gathering but was rebuffed. During an appearance Thursday, Crist said he needed to stay focused on challenging Republican Gov. Rick Scott and pointed to the massive amounts of money backing Scott's re-election bid.
"I am running against $100 million,'' Crist said. "I really don't have the luxury to take my eye off the ball."
That irked Rich. "People don't run against $100 million,'' she said. "They run against people."
Rich, however, is a longshot in the Aug. 26 primary. Despite representing South Florida districts in the state House and Senate from 2000 to 2012, polls have shown most voters statewide know little about her. She also has struggled to raise money while Crist rakes in millions of dollars.
Perhaps the key part of Rich's campaign pitch is that she has a long record of supporting issues backed by the Democratic base, such as opposing school vouchers, supporting gay rights and fighting for abortion rights.
Along with touting those positions, Rich also is trying to send the signal that Crist's positions on many issues have changed as he moved from being a Republican to an independent to a Democrat. Crist was elected as the Republican governor in 2006, after earlier serving as a GOP attorney general, education commissioner and state senator.
"I have a record. He has a record. Let's talk about it,'' Rich said Friday, referring to her desire for a debate.
Rich also is trying to pitch that she offers more substance than Crist. While answering questions from media members, she veered briefly into issues such as Florida's tax system being regressive, the value of home- and community-based care in the Medicaid system and the deteriorating conditions of natural springs.
But as she concluded her appearance, she returned to the issue of not being able to appear with Crist. She alluded to thinking about having a chair on the dais to represent Crist, though she didn't do so.
"I didn't want to remind people of Clint Eastwood,'' she said, drawing laughs as she referred to the actor's discussion with an empty chair representing President Obama during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
"The News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders contributed to this report."
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