Joining Puerto Rican leaders in Miami today to show support for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek assailed her critics for using "hurtful words'' and "character attacks'' but, like President Barack Obama, distanced himself from her controversial 1991 speech.
Sotomayor has been called "racist" for saying, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
"I think it was a poor choice of words,'' Meek said, adding, "I think she has impeccable credentials regarding the decisions that she's made...I don't think it speaks to her overall character."
In a two-for-the-price-of-one special frequently used by elected officials running for higher office, the event was promoted by Meek's congressional office, but it also supplements his Hispanic outreach as a U.S. Senate candidate. Meek noted that he issued a statement calling for a thorough and accurate confirmation hearing just "hours after'' Sotomayor was introduced. Tomorrow he plans to hold a similar press conference with Puerto Rican leaders in the Orlando area, a key battleground in statewide races.
Asked how he would run against the Republican frontrunner, Gov. Charlie Crist, who has high approval ratings but has avoided taking positions on federal issues, Meek said, "Obviously all of us have to answer some tough questions...He is an active candidate, and we all should answer questions to the best of our ability, and I'm pretty sure that over time, Floridians will get a chance to know where we all stand...The governor has had approval ratings but he hasn't made any decisions on any major issues that are facing Floridians, leave alone Americans as it relates to the U.S. Senate, making statements on issues, and he's going to have to do that as he moves along."
On the Democratic party's attacks that Crist is "bailing" on Floridians, Meek said, "One of the big parts of the campaign is that the governor is going to have to explain why he's leaving. Halfway through his first term, he made an announcement that he wants to go to the U.S. Senate on behalf of helping Floridians....He can change major wrongs in the state right now just with his signature."