Updated: Apr 8
Debbie Wasserman Schultz lost today, not just a political ally but a vote. With the passing of Alcee Hastings, who has been in hospice for a very long time, Wasserman Schultz goes back to having just one vote in Congress; she's had Alcee's proxy for months. Like her, Alcee had been a garden variety corrupt career politician-- both were in the pockets of the private prison industry for example-- and neither brought any value to their constituents or to Congress. Alcee's district doesn't have a viable Republican Party; the PVI is D-31. Hillary beat Trump 79.8% to 18.0% and Biden beat him 77.2% to 22.0%. In 2018 the GOP didn't bother running a candidate against Alcee and when they did he 2020, Alcee won 253,661 (78.7%) to 68,748 (21.3%). The inland district stretches from Miramar in southern Broward County to twist and turn to include most of the majority-black precincts in and around Fort Lauderdale, goes up into the non-beach parts of Pompano Beach, north and west to the shores of southern Lake Okeechobee and then west into all the black neighborhoods of Palm Beach.
Hastings himself was a judge from 1977 until 1989 when he was impeached (in a House vote of 413-3) for accepting a $150,000 bribe for giving a couple of criminal brothers lenient sentences. He was convicted by the House on 8 of 11 charges by lopsided votes like 69-25. A couple of years later he was elected to Congress, where he continued taking bribes for a couple of decades-- and harassing female employees. He was 84 when he died today of pancreatic cancer.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick ran against Hastings twice and is in the midst of her third run for the seat. She's a stalwart progressive who will, if she wins the special election, mean a huge upgrade in representation for this very hard-pressed district's residents. Last year, when she was running in the primary she told me why she had decided to run. "Time and time again," she said, "Trump and the GOP fail the working class. Working class families have lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic, yet have struggled to receive their unemployment benefits for stimulus checks. Written into the stimulus bill meant to support American families, were tax breaks and bailouts for large corporations. Moreover, Trump and Republican lawmakers are pushing from public schools to reopen, despite growing numbers of COVID cases. This will disproportionately impact working class families who are forced to work but cannot afford childcare. They have no other alternative but to send their children into COVID hotspots. Throughout the course of my campaign, I have helped voters and working class citizens apply for unemployment and small business loans. If elected, I will pledge to support all current, and future small business owners. I will also support further rule changes to the PPP that would ensure only deserving small businesses get all the help they need for as long as they need. I plan to stand against the Republican lawmakers who serve corporate interests of working class families. It is time for real leadership in Congress."
Also last year I spoke with her about the NRA gun pandemic in Florida. At the time, she told me that "South Florida bore witness to one of the most horrific school shootings in recent memory. Fourteen high school students and three educators were murdered with over a dozen injuries. This tragedy sparked a nationwide debate about gun violence and saw different proposed solutions from both Republicans and Democrats. Lawmakers in Florida voted against statewide background checks and some legislators even suggested that teachers be provided guns to better 'protect' students against school shootings. Arming teachers will only serve to increase fear and violence in schools. Increased physical security measures such as metal detectors and increased law enforcement presence have not been proven to increase public safety, but instead make schools less welcoming for students, particularly students of color. If elected I will support universal background checks for all firearm purchases and I will champion legislation that requires those who purchase a firearm to attend a mandatory safety training course. I will not accept any campaign contributions from the gun industry and I denounce large corporations that fund this harmful industry. We must enact swift measures that prioritize the safety of the American people, not the interests of the gun lobby."
You can read more about who Sheila is and what her legislative priorities are on her website, which also includes a section that will give you a clear view of where she stands on the issues of the day.
This morning, she told me she is committed to the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage to a living wage and joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Last summer, the relatively conservative and VERY status quo SunSentinel published an electoral questionnaire that is pretty comprehensive. Below are just a few questions and answers that will give you an idea about why Blue America is strongly considering endorsing her election. Please consider contributing her campaign by clicking on this link.
Election security: Does more need to be done to ensure fair, free and safe elections in these turbulent times? If so, what?
Election security is incredibly important, especially in a state like Florida where we have a long history of voter suppression, discarded ballots, and election hacking. In order to ensure the integrity of the democratic process, we need to invest in election security. I support automatic voter registration when people turn eighteen, making Election Day a federal holiday so people don’t have to take time off work in order to vote, and having independent and nonpartisan oversight committees to ensure all votes are counted in an equitable manner.
Health care: If you support the Affordable Care Act, what do you believe could be done to improve it? If you don’t support the Affordable Care Act, what do you propose? Do you favor letting people import drugs from countries like Canada?
While the Affordable Care Act was a good start, I believe that we need to establish a universal healthcare system. Specifically, Medicare For All. Universal healthcare needs to include disease prevention, primary care, acute long term care, mental health care, and dental care. Additionally, I support allowing people to import prescription drugs. Not only does that prioritize people over profits, it forces the U.S. to negotiate drug prices to an affordable rate.
Cuba: Did you support President Trump’s reversal of President Obama’s Cuba policy? What should happen there?
I believe that improving diplomatic relations with Cuba is essential to ensuring our economic and cultural ties with its people. The Obama Administration began normalizing relations with Cuba in an effort to remove the economic embargo which was costly to American businesses, particularly those in South Florida. Mr. Trump has reversed many of the Obama Administration’s efforts and renewed sanctions that serve to create scarcity and desperation for people on the island, and has done nothing to promote positive dialogue with the Cuban government. Mr. Trump’s actions have put diplomacy between us and Cuba on a path towards that of the Cold War era. Further, Mr. Trump’s reinstatement of the travel embargo prevents families from visiting eachother and stifiles the tourism economies of both the United States and Cuba. I support increased diplomacy with the Cuban government, and an end to the travel embargo that is negatively impacting the Cuban economy and the Cuban-American population in South Florida.
National debt: Before the coronavirus, the federal deficit was expected to top a trillion dollars this year. How would you have us think about our nation’s mounting debt?
The growing national debt becomes more insurmountable by the minute. Without reform, our national economy is at risk of fiscal collapse, a devaluing of U.S. currency, mass unemployment, and unstable trade agreements. In order to combat this, steps need to be taken to stimulate more economic growth. The most promising step being a tax increase on the wealthiest 1% of the population, as well as mega-corporations like Amazon and Netflix.
Climate change: What should be done, if anything, to address climate change?
The great state of Florida, especially South Florida, is uniquely susceptible to the grave threats linked to climate change. Our state is often described as America’s “ground zero” for climate change, global warming, and sea-level rise. Florida is uniquely directly threatened by the rising sea levels, with the majority of our population and economic centers concentrated along low-elevation ocean fronts. The vast majority of Florida residents think climate change is happening, and they deserve protection and resources to protect their families and property. This is why I strongly support the “Green New Deal” sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Additionally, I support a statewide ban on fracking, and will advocate for significant long-term strategic infrastructure investments to appropriately protect our communities. Some communities in Florida have begun implementing climate change mitigation approaches. However, statewide initiatives have been hampered by the politicization of climate change in the United States, focusing on resilience rather than full-scale mitigation and adaptation. I will make it a priority to search proactively and support solutions that will keep all Floridians safe and conserve our fragile ecosystem.
Money in politics: Have we had enough of campaign finance reform or should something be done about the influence of money in politics? If so, what?
There is much work to be done in campaign finance reform. Increased influence from corporations and lobbyists has allowed many in public office to forget that their primary responsibility is to serve the people of their constituency, not the interests of corporate lobbyists. I believe we should pass the Honest Ads Act and the DISCLOSE Act to eliminate “dark money” and foreign spending, which will help ensure citizens are receiving raw information without the manipulation of foreign governments. I also support small donor public financing to connect politicians with all their constituents, as opposed to a few wealthy donors. I support ending the revolving door in Congress that allows Congressional staff and former members of Congress to move between Congressional and lobbying jobs by enacting a lifetime lobbying ban for members of Congress and senior staff. I also support an evaluation and overhaul of the Federal Election Commission, so that they can better monitor campaign donations from Super PACs and nonprofits.
A Blue America-endorsed candidate from a neighboring district, Christine Olivo, told me this morning that "Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has a heart for her community. During this pandemic, Sheila has helped employ over 500 residents that lost their jobs. Sheila spearheaded efforts to provide Covid testing and vaccines for underserved communities in both Broward and Palm Beach Counties. She does all of this while being a devoted wife and mother of two. I am inspired by her passion and I look forward to seeing another progressive in Congress."