Former Gov. Charlie Crist, keynote speaker at Saturday night’s Kennedy King 2013 Dinner, said that unlike his former political party, “Democrats believe we’re all in this together.”
“I believe we can make a difference, and I know we have an opportunity,” he told fellow Democrats at the Tampa Convention Center dinner.
“It’s not about any one group of people. It’s about teachers, it’s about firefighters, it’s about law enforcement officers, it’s about blacks, it’s about whites, it’s about gays, it’s about straights,” he said. “It’s wherever you came from, you’re welcome in this party,” Crist said at the closing of his eight-minute address.”
For Crist, there scarcely could be a more important gathering of Democrats in the state than the joint meeting of the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Democratic Party organizations.
Crist, a resident of St. Petersburg since childhood who works in the Tampa office of the Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, has his political base in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
His first public office was a state Senate seat representing parts of both cities.
But it is also the home turf of the person who could be his strongest opponent in a Democratic primary for governor, former banker and state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
Sink was among the dinner speakers, giving a tribute to her late husband, prominent Tampa lawyer Bill McBride, also a former unsuccessful candidate for governor.
Sink lost narrowly to Gov. Rick Scott in 2010, and since then has been considered a potential 2014 candidate. She wavered on the subject after the December death of her husband.
But she told The Tampa Tribune last week: “Over the course of the last month I have started thinking a lot more about it … but I’m not ready to make a final decision yet.”
Other speakers included Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, state Senate leader Arthenia Joyner and Florida Democratic Vice Chair Alan Clendenin.
About 300 people dined on stuffed chicken at the main annual fundraising event for the two biggest Democratic Party organizations on Crist’s Tampa-St. Petersburg home turf. Saturday was the first bi-county fundraising dinner.
“It’s more of a regional approach for the party because a lot of the issues we face are at a regional level,” said Hillsborough County Democratic Chairman Chris Mitchell. “This is the first step in bringing the counties together, and we plan to do more events like this.”