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St. Augustine Record: Nelson rallies local Dems

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Fighting "misinformation" is one of the biggest challenges to gaining voters for Democrats in Florida, the "biggest swing state in the nation," said Sen. Bill Nelson in St. Augustine on Saturday at a Democratic Party conference.

Nelson was among leaders rallying the troops at the Florida Democratic Party Small County Coalition Conference held at the Renaissance Hotel.

Educating voters about what's happening and overriding "misinformation" were issues repeatedly hit on by speakers.

"The truth is not the standard," Nelson said, when speaking about Fox News and the Republican Party. "The standard is whatever they say, and you can't run a country like this."

Nelson drew applause and laughter from the crowd when he told the crowd: "An election is like driving a car. You want to go forward? You put it in D. You want to go backwards? Put it in R."

Nelson also touched on Republicans' efforts in the U.S. Congress to reduce Medicare and Medicaid, and their "unwillingness" to negotiate on most issues.

"They are unwilling to reason," he said. "We had trouble keeping the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) going because people would say, 'it's my way or no way'."

Nelson was keynote speaker for the three-day event which included numerous Democratic Party officials including Rep. Scott Randolph, St. Augustine Mayor Joseph Boles and State Sen. Tony Hill, who recently announced he's resigning from the Florida Senate to work with newly-elected Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. The conference runs through today.

The conference is a workshop for officials from different counties in the state to learn how to expand the Democrat base and educate voters. Sessions ranged from how to raise funds and frame political messages to how to network with minority groups and service organizations.

"The best politics is just to do a good job," Nelson said.

When questions about debt and the country's newly reduced credit rating arose, responses often focused on the Tea Party.

The Tea Party's extreme views caused the debt ceiling issue to come to national spotlight, said Rod Smith, Florida Democratic Party chairman. The party is "a small group ... that brought this country to the brink of embarrassment."

"At the root of the Tea Party is a certain defeatism," Smith said.

Referring to the recent battle over raising the debt ceiling, Nelson said the issue will continue to be addressed, noting "it needs to be done with further deficit reduction," further cuts and revision of the tax code.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and the Republican-dominated Legislature both came in for criticism. At the sign-in desk, workers were handing out bumper stickers reading: "Pink Slip Rick," an apparent reference to dropping job numbers.

"Have you seen what they're trying to do to eviscerate education?" Nelson asked. "What they're doing is trying to run like a Mack truck in the Legislature."

Nelson also spoke about a new voter registration law enacted by the Legislature that is being fought by, among others, the League of Women Voters.

The new law, he said, "makes it harder to vote and harder to get your vote counted."

"This legislation, this government, have been very unpopular," Smith said.

Annette Cappella, chair of the St. Johns County Democratic Executive Committee, who was instrumental in organizing the conference, said that she hopes voters will "become informed as to what facts are out there and stop listening to the theatrics."

"Look at both sides," Cappella said. "Learn to be respectful of people in public office."