TALLAHASSEE, FLa. – Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich confirmed Wednesday she'll run for governor in 2014 against Gov. Rick Scott, the first to toss a hat in the ring to challenge the Republican governor.
The Democrat from Weston, in Broward County, said in an interview that comments she made to Broward Democrats on Tuesday evening weren't intended as a formal announcement but confirmed she's in and "formulating a strategic and financial plan."
Rich, 70, also said she intends to conduct a listening tour of the state.
Asked whether a liberal Jewish woman from South Florida can succeed in a statewide race, Rich said voters would have to decide that.
"Some of the media are focused on that issue," she told the News Service. "But I'm known for my work in the policy arena – including across the aisle with some of the most conservative senators."
Since getting elected to the House in 2000 and then the Senate in 2004, Rich has become one of the Legislature's most passionate advocates on children's issues and is thought to be one of its most knowledgeable on health and human services issues, generally. She will leave the Senate in November because of term limits.
Rich, a former president of the 90,000-member National Council of Jewish Women, acknowledged strong ideological differences with Scott, who is already raising money for a run at a second term.
But she said it was too soon to take Scott on directly. "First there's a primary," she said. "And I think there'll be a crowded Democratic field."
Other possible candidates for the Democratic nomination include 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, state Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, and – if he were to join the Democratic Party - former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now an independent.
Scott defeated Sink in 2010 by less than 100,000 votes out of more than 5 million cast. She is widely thought to be interested in another run.
Rich did criticize Scott's budget decisions this week as the governor signed the spending plan into law.
"For the second year in a row, Gov. Scott has underscored how little he truly understands about Florida and the priorities of the people he pledged to serve," Rich said in a statement earlier this week. "Despite earlier announcing his intent to join Democrats in their long-standing commitment to public education, he approved a $1 billion band aid that doesn't cover the $1.3 billion in state money his fellow Republicans slashed from Florida's K-12 schools last year."
Rich also criticized Scott for allowing tuition hikes by state universities, while saying he doesn't like them.
Rich has been floating a possible candidacy since late last year, and told the News Service back in September: "I think I would be a good governor."