Senate races

Meek denies report he was going to drop out of Florida Senate race, endorse Crist

Florida Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) denied a report he planned to drop out of the race in order to endorse Indpendent candidate Charlie Crist and thereby keep Republicans from winning the seat.

In a hastily arranged news conference in Miami Springs Thursday night, Meek said “I’m in the race to stay,” according to local reports.

He also accused Crist, as he has done on previous occassions, of planting false rumors in an attempt to steal Democratic votes.

Meek also told CNN the report was “absolutely not true.”

“The president came down to do an event for me in Orlando and St. Petersburg. We talk politics all the time. He said I heard this thing about you getting out. I said, ‘I’m not getting out.’ I said Charlie Crist needs to get out of the race. And that was that,” Meek told the network.

His campaign also denied the report.

“The article is not true,” Meek campaign manager Abe Dyk said in a statement Thursday evening. “Kendrick Meek was never dropping out of this race, is never dropping out of this race, and will never drop out of this race. Kendrick Meek will always stand up for the middle class and will not leave Floridians a choice between two lifelong conservative Republicans who only stand with the special interests. Kendrick is the Democratic nominee so if anyone should drop out, it’s Charlie Crist.”

Politico reported Thursday that former President Bill Clinton had spoken to Meek about dropping out of the race and endorsing Crist, thereby pushing Democrats to vote for the governor and keeping Republican Marco Rubio from winning. Meek had agreed but then changed mind, deciding he didn’t want to be seen as a quitter, according to the report.

Rubio led in the latest Quinnipiac poll with 42 percent of the vote. Crist had 35 percent and Meek received 15 percent. Meek has consistently trailed in polling on the race. Crist led in early polling but Rubio has led in the campaign’s closing weeks.

Meanwhile, the Crist campaign said the report was “accurate.”

“While this story is accurate, the governor’s focus is on uniting common-sense Democrats, independents, and Republicans behind his campaign because he is the one candidate who can defeat Tea Party extremist Marco Rubio and deliver bipartisan results for Florida in Washington,” campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement.

It was the Crist camp that initially contacted Clinton to suggest that Meek drop out, according to the Washington Post.

Crist personally called top Clinton adviser Doug Band and asked if
the former president would talk to Meek about withdrawing from the race, the
report said. 

Crist appeared on MSNBC’s “Countdown” Thursday night and confirmed he
talked to Clinton advisors, but didn’t say what those conversations
were about.

“I had numerous phone calls with people very close to President Clinton,” Crist said.

He also said he didn’t think Meek would drop out of the race. “I think that all three of us will be on the ballot.”

Republican National Committe Chairman Michael Steele released a strongly worded statement condemning Clinton’s interference in the race and charged it would send a “chilling signal to all voters, but
especially African Americans.”

“If we
have learned anything this election cycle, it’s that voters demand the right to
choose candidates for themselves, not by a political establishment seeking to
make those decisions from on high. President Clinton’s actions to have Kendrick
Meek withdraw from the campaign sends a chilling signal to all voters, but
especially African Americans. One can only imagine the response if Republican
leadership tried to force out of the race – in the 11th hour – a qualified
black candidate like Kendrick Meek,” Steele said.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee also decried the president’s actions.

“Secret deals, backroom negotiations and the failed promises of transparency are critical reasons why Democrats find themselves standing on the doorstep of sweeping losses in next Tuesday’s election,” communications director Brian Walsh said in a statement.

— This post was updated at 8:39 p.m. and 10:16 p.m.

Tags Bill Clinton Marco Rubio
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