TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Democrat Kendrick Meek will become the first U.S. Senate candidate to qualify for the Florida ballot by petition after his campaign finished turning in more than 145,000 signatures Monday.
He needed 112,476 to qualify. The extra will help ensure he meets the goal in case some are determined invalid.
"Just the coffee talk shop about this effort is going to help us propel this campaign into victory in November," Meek said during a conference call.
The effort also gives him more than 145,000 names, e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers of people the campaign has personally contacted and can now try to recruit as volunteers and donors. Meek made it a point of traveling from Pensacola to the Florida Keys to gather signatures.
The other option for candidates is to write a check for about $10,000 to qualify for the ballot. No one else in the race is attempting to qualify by petition.
Meek also placed an emphasis on some areas like Duval County and Escambia County that traditionally vote Republican, gathering 10,000 petitions in Duval and 2,500 in Escambia.
"It was very, very important to my candidacy to let the people of Escambia County know that this is not about party, that it's about leadership and it's about understanding issues that are facing Floridians, and that's the reason why we spent a lot of time there," Meek said.
Likewise he said he spent a lot of time in Jacksonville.
"We're counting on Duval County. I'm not saying we want to be competitive in Duval County, I want to win Duval County," Meek said.
While the Republican Senate primary between Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio has drained attention away from Meek, the Democrat pointed to the petition drive as an advantage for him.
"It gives me something that they don't have, and that's 145,000-plus signed signatures from Floridians saying they would like to see my name on the ballot," Meek said. "It also allows me to come from the perspective that I have listened to the state of Florida."
Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre is also running for the Democratic nomination, but Meek is considered the clear front-runner. Supervisors of elections have until April 19th to certify the signatures.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.