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Who Is U.S. Senate Candidate Pam Keith?

Pam Keith for Senate

Democrat Pam Keith is a political newcomer and an underdog in Florida’s race for the US Senate. WFSU sat down with Keith ahead of the August 30th primary.

Despite being the first to enter the race to replace Marco Rubio, many Floridians still don’t know Pam Keith. With only a few days left before the primary, she’s still putting up a fight. And after winning the endorsement of the Miami Herald, it’s clear that some politicos are watching.

“I chose the US Senate because my background really is tailored to international issues, military, foreign policy, energy, labor. Those are all federal issues. And that’s the platform that I have and that’s why I’m running for Senate,” she said.

Keith was born while her family was serving abroad in the Foreign Service. She lived in Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Brazil and Kentucky, all before going to high school in California. She says she learned what it meant to be American while living abroad. And she learned what it meant to be African-American when she came back home.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been the new kid, the one who has to make the overtures, the one that has to make new friends. So you learn how to build bridges. You have to, or you live in isolation,” she said.

She went to law school at Boston College, and served in the US Navy as a lawyer. She then moved to corporate law, representing labor groups and utility company Florida Power and Light. After living and working overseas, Keith says she’s fluent in French, Portuguese, and one other language…

“I’ve been a liberal living a conservative lifestyle, right? Joining the military, being corporate America, being an attorney, and following the dots. I’ve been surrounded by conservatives all my life! I speak fluent Republican! And I think that helps,” she said.

In the year of the political outsider, Keith is just that. Despite her military service, and her experience in foreign policy and corporate law, she lacks the money and name recognition of her opponents Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Both are sitting Congressmen, and both have issues. Murphy boasts the support of the Democratic Party establishment, but he embellishedhis academic and professional record. Grayson is characterized as a blowhard and a bully, and is accused of domestic violence. As a newcomer who isn’t a billionaire, Keith says it’s difficult to break into politics.

“And so we always wonder why it is that most of our candidates are so wealthy, or have access to people that are very wealthy. And then we lament the fact that our politics are inundated with money interests. Well that’s because those who don’t have money are blocked from playing,” she said.

Two centuries after the Constitution was ratified, only one African American woman has been elected to the United States Senate, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois. Today Congress is 80% white and 80% male, but it’s technically the most diverse in history.

“We do not have a shortage of extremely wealthy frat guys in the Senate. We’ve got plenty of those. So I fail to see what Patrick Murphy adds to the mix. But, at base, I know I advocate for my community differently than he does,” she said.

In order to get better governance, Keith says the state needs more political newcomers like her.

“And even if I don’t prove it by winning, I proved it by getting this far. And the next one will get even further. If we want a different kind of America, then we gotta work for it and go grab it because nobody’s gonna give it to us,” she said.

Keith admits she may not win the Democratic primary on August 30th, but says she’ll continue to advocate for the issues she believes in.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.