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There was a time when Kendrick Meek didn't need to defend his Democratic credentials. The son of a popular Democratic congresswoman and a longtime party loyalist, Meek has run unopposed in every general election since his foray into national politics in 2002.
When the Miami congressman aimed his ambition toward Florida's U.S. Senate seat, the forecast was an easy primary win. Then along came Jeff Greene, a real estate investor and Palm Beach billionaire whose TV ad blitz helped carry him into a two-way tie with Meek only weeks after he entered the race in April.
Now Meek's hopes seem pinned to exposing Greene's former Republican flirtation while broadcasting his own Democratic lineage. In a June 22, 2010, Palm Beach Post debate, Meek painted himself as the principal defender of public education, the middle class and legal abortions.
"When I become the nominee, the Democratic nominee, I will be the only pro-choice candidate on the ballot," he said.
If Meek makes it to the general election, would he be the only Roe v. Wade defender in the race? We decided to check it out.
Florida has 22 candidates for U.S. Senate. Of those, seven are write-in candidates who won't appear on the ballot.
In the Democratic primary, the 4-person field is expected to come down to Meek and Greene, who also supports Roe v. Wade. "I believe that abortion should be safe, legal and rare," reads his campaign website.
But Meek's statement envisions a November scenario where he is the Democratic candidate. So, while Greene’s stance provides useful context, it isn’t relevant to our ruling.
Of the three Republican candidates, former House Speaker Marco Rubio is expected to secure his party’s nomination. Rubio is fiercely anti-abortion. He boasts on his campaign website: "As a state legislator, I supported various pieces of pro-life legislation that, among other things, would require doctors to perform ultrasounds before performing abortions and another bill that would ban the use of taxpayer dollars to fund stem cell research."
There are also six candidates running as independents and two third-party candidates:
- Lewis Jerome Armstrong, a contractor from Jacksonville, said he was pro-life, but would support abortion in situations involving incest or rape.
- Sue Askeland, a housewife from Stuart, said she was against all abortions.
- Bobbie Bean, a farmer and printer from Sebring, said he would only support abortions in situations involving incest, rape or life-threatening pregnancies.
- Bernie DeCastro, the Constitution Party of Florida candidate from Ocala, supports a federal law that would define life as beginning at conception, said spokesman Donald Barber.
- Bruce Ray Riggs of Crystal River didn’t return our call.
- Libertarian Alexander Snitker, an office supplies salesman from Spring Hill, identified himself as pro-life. He said abortion should be a state issue, but added he wouldn't vote to undermine Roe v. Wade. "Government shouldn't decide for someone else," he said.
Then there is Gov. Charlie Crist, easily the best known independent candidate. His abortion views are a tad complicated. Crist, who left the Republican party in April 2010 to secure his position on the general election ballot as an independent, has maintained a flexible abortion stance during his political career. He called himself "pro-choice" in 1998, then recast himself as an anti-abortion candidate in his gubernatorial bid. In his latest political rebirth, Crist insisted he was still personally pro-life, but would not legislate according to his views. In June 2010, he rejected a controversial abortion bill that would have required most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus unless they signed a form to opt out. The bill was described as the most significant anti-abortion measure in Florida history by proponents.
Campaign spokesman Nick Autiello said Tuesday that Crist is personally pro-life, but accepts that abortion is legal. That's not a rousing pro-choice endorsement.
Meek’s campaign insisted that Crist’s gelatin-like abortion record does not amount to a substantial pro-choice stance.
"On Charlie Crist, it is almost impossible to PolitiFact him because he doesn’t hold a position," said Adam Sharon, Meek’s spokesman.
To highlight Meek's credentials, his campaign pointed to an early endorsement from the NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice’s political action committee.
"He brings a distinguished record of support for a woman's right to choose to this race. Without question, voters in Florida will have a clear choice, regardless of which anti-choice candidate Meek faces in the general election," said the organization's president, Nancy Keenan, in a press release.
However, Keenan also sent out a press release praising Crist after he vetoed the abortion bill. The press release called the veto, "a victory for Florida women," and gave credit to both Crist and Meek for triumphing over the Republican-led effort.
Let’s review. If Meek were to trump Greene in the primary, he would undoubtedly be the most passionate pro-choice candidate on the general election ballot. That seems to be the point he wanted to make.
But, that's not what he said. He said he would be the only pro-choice candidate, and that statement needs some clarification. While Crist may not harbor the sharpest pro-choice views, he still has taken a seat in that tent both in recent days and in the past.
Given Meek's solid pro-abortion stance and Crist's rotating views, we rule Meek’s statement Mostly True.
The Palm Beach Post, "The Palm Beach Hosts Debate Between Democratic Senate Rivals Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek," June 22, 2010.
NARAL press release, "NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC Endorses Rep. Kendrick Meek for Florida Senate Contest," December 16, 2009.
NARAL press release, "NARAL Pro-Choice America Applauds Pro-Choice Victory for Florida Women," June 11, 2010.
www.marcorubio.com, accessed June 22, 2010.
www.jeffgreene.com, accessed June 22, 2010.
St. Petersburg Times, "Gov. Charlie Crist Vetoes Abortion Bill," June 12, 2010.
St. Petersburg Times, "Crist's Stance on Abortion Still Hazy," August 18, 2006.
Florida Division of Elections, candidate listings, accessed June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Lewis Jerome Armstrong, U.S. Senate candidate, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Sue Askeland, U.S. Senate candidate, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview, Donald Barber, Bernie DeCastro campaign spokesman, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Alexander Snitker, U.S. Senate candidate, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Rick Tyler, U.S. Senate candidate, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Bobbie Bean, U.S. Senate candidate, June 22, 2010.
Telephone interview with Nick Autiello, Charlie Crist campaign spokesman, June 22, 2010.
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