As the Democratic Women's Club of Broward gathered for its monthly meeting Wednesday, a table was filled with flyers promoting Nan Rich's candidacy for governor but not a piece of Charlie Crist literature could be seen.
Long-time club member Joanne Sterner greeted guests as she stood in front of a sign that read "Stand with Nan." Sterner says she's scared by the talk that Crist, a former Republican governor, is the heavy favorite to be the Democratic nominee for governor.
"He's going to get killed," she said, because of his history of shifting positions on key issues. This feisty crowd of determined liberal activists made it clear Crist has a lot of work to do to unite Democrats in the state's most heavily-Democratic county.
Broward is the home turf of Rich, a former Senate Democratic leader from Weston. Among the club's 35 members, there was strong support for her and a visceral dislike for Crist, who plans to open his first regional campaign headquarters in Plantation on Saturday.
"I don't have respect for him," said Barbara Ruge, vice-president of the nearby Oakland Park Democratic Club. "He doesn't know what he's doing. He's just on his own political agenda."
Patricia Golay pinched her nostrils at the suggestion that Crist is destined to be the Democratic nominee. "I'll hold my nose," she said with a laugh.
Some elected officials in Broward are more pragmatic about the Crist-Rich competition. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, a former Democratic House member, praised Rich's record as a lawmaker, but he said she faces an "impossible time" winning statewide and that Crist's "dynamic personality" makes him the best candidate against Gov. Rick Scott, who Seiler said has been unable to connect with real people.
Broward has nearly 564,000 registered Democrats, more than any other county. Unaffiliated voters have passed Republicans in registration there as well. Taken together, the "big three" counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach account for about one-third of Florida's 4.6 million Democrats.