If black voters turn out in force against Scott in 2014, they could swing a race as close as his last, which he won by only 61,550 votes. Black voters comprised between 11 and 14 percent of the vote in recent gubernatorial elections, and their share of the electorate is on the rise. Racial and ethnic conflicts, such as the bitter debate in 2000 over custody of Cuban rafter Elian Gonzalez, have a history of shaping elections in the nation’s largest swing state.
“Stand your ground is becoming a rallying cry against Rick Scott in the minority community,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, who led a task force that examined the law and pushed for changes. “It’s another reason for the minority community to stay active, and we’re talking about a governor’s race that will be close and won at the margins.”
Scott’s likely Democratic opponents on Thursday joined the criticism of his leadership after the racially polarizing trial. “I’m troubled that we don’t have a governor that can bring people together after such an emotional and personal public debate,” said Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who switched parties and is expected to challenge Scott. “No law is perfect, and it seems to me that Trayvon’s tragic death provides an opportunity for a real dialogue on how we can improve our laws to ensure that we are protecting self-defense while not creating a defense for criminals.”
Democratic Sen. Nan Rich, who’s struggling to gain traction in the polls after running against Scott for more than one year, mocked him for being out of town during the sit-in in his office, though he returned to Tallahassee late Thursday and met with protestors. “I think he’s afraid to come back,” Rich quipped. “Leadership is lacking, and we need leadership from the governor to change this law.”