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Lining Up - Rick Scott's Opponents

Nan Rich, 70
Senate Minority Leader

About: Rich, term-limited out of the Senate, was the first Democrat to enter the race, announcing her candidacy in April. During her four years in the state House (2000-04) and eight years in the state Senate, she earned a reputation as a passionate advocate for Florida’s children, seniors and people with disabilities. She says she plans to focus much of her campaign on education, which she says has been a “major failing” of the governor, and health care.

Pluses: Rich’s early entry into the race gives her plenty of time to continue building statewide name recognition — something she’s been working on as she crisscrosses the state talking to Democratic clubs and organizations.

Minuses: Though popular in Broward County, Rich faces an uphill battle in terms of name recognition and could easily be overshadowed by other more prominent names. Fundraising could be an issue: She’s raised only $155,000 so far.

 

Alex Sink, 64
Former state CFO, 2010 Democratic candidate for governor

About: In February, Sink told the Tampa Bay Times that she’s considering running against Scott again. Her role as a senior adviser to Hyde Capital Partners and work with her public policy foundation, the Florida Next Foundation, provide her with opportunity to maintain a network of statewide contacts.

Pluses: Sink lost by just 61,550 votes (1.2%) in 2010 and still has statewide name recognition. A former banker, she may be able to highlight her business background more comfortably as the financial crisis recedes.

Minuses: Her lackluster campaign in 2010 — MSNBC branded her the year’s worst candidate — may leave her with an uphill battle in convincing Democratic voters that she’s the best hope for defeating Scott.

 

Dan Gelber, 52
Former State Senator

About: Since leaving the state Senate, Gelber has criticized Scott as “the worst governor in modern history” but hasn’t said whether he’ll run for governor himself. He recently started his own law firm, Gelber Schachter & Greenberg, in downtown Miami.

Pluses: Gelber is respected for his intelligence and has a passionate streak that could help energize the Democratic base.

Minuses: Despite his strong debate performance and solid fundraising in his 2010 race against Pam Bondi for attorney general, Gelber couldn’t overcome the conservative political tide. Like Rich, Gelber is known in south Florida but still faces a name recognition challenge in other parts of the state.

Buddy Dyer, 54
Orlando Mayor

About: Dyer, who has been mayor of Orlando since 2003, when he won a special election to replace Glenda Hood, has said he will decide by January whether to run in 2014. Dyer has become known for his efforts to revitalize downtown Orlando, championing projects ranging from the Orlando Magic’s new arena to a new performing arts center, renovations to the Citrus Bowl and the new SunRail commuter system.

Pluses: Dyer served 10 years in the Florida Senate, including three years as Democratic Leader before becoming mayor. He’s also well-known in the nine-county Orlando media market that’s home to 2.9 million Floridians. A previous run for statewide office — he lost a 2002 bid for state attorney general to Charlie Crist — left him with a statewide network for fundraising.

Minuses: Despite his popularity in central Florida, Dyer is far from a household name statewide. He could face some local fallout over leaving his mayoral post two years early.

 

Jimmy Morales, 50
Former Miami Dade County Commissioner

About: In July, the Miami Beach lawyer told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s seriously considering a run and believes he can energize the Democratic electorate and reach out to new constituencies.

Pluses: A Harvard law school graduate of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, Morales could appeal to the state’s Hispanic voters, including a growing population of Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area.

Minuses: Morales has a name recognition problem outside Miami-Dade County and lost the 2004 mayoral race in Miami-Dade County to Carlos Alvarez.

 

Charlie Crist, 56
Former Governor

About: Crist’s endorsements of Barack Obama and Sen. Bill Nelson have led many to conclude it’s only a matter of time before the man who once declared himself a “Jeb Bush Republican” switches to the Democratic Party and runs for his former job.

Pluses: As a Republican, Florida’s 44th governor enjoyed support among Democrats. Crist’s appearances in commercials and on billboards for his employer, the law firm Morgan & Morgan, have kept him visible.

Minuses: Crist’s Democratic primary opponents are likely to question whether any conversion to their party is genuine. The GOP already ran an attack ad against Crist during the Democratic convention. Crist can count on financial support from his employer, John Morgan, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to raise much money from Republican donors and it’s unclear whether deep-pocketed Democrats will support him.