Monday, July 18, 2016

Florida Democratic Primary: Senate

I recently received my sample ballot for my state and local Democratic primary, which in Florida is being held on August 20. I'm doing some basic research into the candidates and offices, and figured I'd share my thoughts and research for the benefit of my fellow Floridians.

It will not surprise you to learn that my particular interests skew towards social justice issues, so my takes will examine these heavily, with a particular eye towards candidates' statements on police and criminal justice reform. Candidates will be listed in ballot order, with links to their official websites and wikipedia pages if available.

Today's set of candidates are running for Florida's seat in the US Senate, which is currently being held by Marco Rubio. Every district in Florida will be voting on this one, so this post should apply broadly.

Feel free to read on to get my take!

Rocky De La Fuente (Official campaign site) (Wikipedia), a Mexican-American businessman and Reagan fan. I wish I had learned this first instead of last, because I probably would have stopped there. He ran for President this year, coming in fifth after Clinton, Sanders, O'Malley, and Uncommitted (lol, sorry Rocky). Do NOT recommend.

  • Calls for a reevaluation of how the 2nd Amendment is interpreted. Also wants to create a database of "individuals who exhibit mental issues" (among other things) saying, "This is an area in which the social concept pf [sic] political correctness must yield". So: mixed bag.

  • Issues pages do not lay out any clear policy plans or goals, but instead have a series of leading questions on each page. This gets really clunky in some of the sections, as when he asks in his Education Policy page:

    What if student loan repayment was stratified on a basis of contribution to national needs in critical sectors. For example: a 1:1 ratio of debt reduction to dollars paid in non-targeted careers and a higher debt reduction ratio in other critical career paths (e.g., teaching, health care, first responders, etc.)? 

    Dude, just... just say what you want to say. This isn't Jeopardy; you don't have to phrase things in the form of a question.

  • Refers to entitlements like Medicare, Social Security, and the ACA as "Ministerial Policy" and seems to want to send this kind of thing back to the states? If I am reading his leading questions on the topic correctly, which I'm honestly not sure I am.

  • No mention of women's rights, QUILTBAG by any name, racial justice, or criminal justice reform. The closest thing I could find on the topic of police accountability was this blog post. It is not great. It's not the worst, either! (The GOP exists and is much worse!) But this definitely sends him to the bottom of my list.

Alan Grayson (Official House site) (Official campaign site) (Wikipedia), a Harvard-educated white dude who is currently representing Florida's 9th District (southeast portion of Orlando, including Kissimmee and St. Cloud) in the House of Representatives. The first thing I found about him is this article about his call for independent police civilian review boards at a local Black Lives Matter rally, so that's good. DO* recommend.

Wellp, it looks like he was abusive to his wife - SO NEVER MIND. Do not recommend.

  • Endorsed Bernie Sanders, and I can see why. Strong positions against Citizens United, for adding a Medicare-buy-in option to the ACA, reinstating Glass-Steagal, etc.

  • Includes LGBTQ+ EqualityWomen's Rights and Racial Justice as three of his ten major issues pages, which I appreciate. Supports Planned Parenthood and the ERA; opposes voting restrictions, bathroom laws, police militarization, and conversion therapy. Also brags about using the word "cisgender" but /shrug. I will accept a small amount of ally theater from people who do actual ally work.

Pam Keith (Official campaign site), a Black woman who served as a Navy JAG, then civilian lawyer. Her About page features some really adorable photos btw. DO recommend.

  • Offers thorough and concrete policy recommendations on criminal justice reform, which is by far the most detailed page on her website, and most detailed plan of any of the candidates. A+++++ I like her already.

  • She doesn't mention women's rights by name, or QUILTBAG by any name, but combines these into a general statement On Respecting Privacy & Individual Choices. I'll take it.

  • Has some interesting ideas about how to address economic issues like unemployment and income inequality which involve fiddling with corporate tax rates and subsidies. While these read as awfully lax on corporate greed, they also seem very practical and implementable. This isn't anywhere near my area of expertise and I'd very much appreciate commentary by people who know more about this stuff.

Reginald Luster (Official campaign site), a Black man with a long and distinguished legal career, ranging from the Civil Rights division of the DOJ to the Jacksonville Bar Association and more. Meh.

  • Supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. While mistyping it as "United Citizens vs FEC" which might bug me more than it should, but there it is. There are other grammatical errors throughout the page as well.

  • Includes Criminal Justice Reform and Voting Rights as two of his eight major issues pages, which would be cool if they included anything more than a brief paragraph of broad goals on each page. "Reginald would end the era of mass incarceration of Floridians and other citizens;" cool, but how? Could you be more specific? Not really? Aight then...

  • No mention of women's rights or QUILTBAG by any name.

  • Six out of his eight issues pages mention Florida in the title, which is cool and all, but he's running for national office, and I feel like it's probably important to focus on national issues too.

Patrick Murphy (Official House site) (Official campaign site) (Wikipedia), a white guy who's caught a lot of favorable breaks from his rich family. Former Republican and Romney supporter. Currently representing Florida's 18th district (which includes Ft. Pierce and Palm Beach) in the House of Representatives. Meh.

  • Has a section on Criminal Justice Reform which has some nice points, but isn't at all comprehensive (or honestly very convincing in regards to this being a priority of his).

  • Pretty solid LGBT equality page and Women's Health Care page - which goes beyond his support for Planned Parenthood and the antidiscrimination elements of the ACA, and also supports the VAWA, which is something I haven't seen on the others' pages.

  • He's the only candidate who includes a Standing With Israel page among his issues which, in addition to the obvious pro-Israel sentiment, also specifically condemns antisemitism.

Check out my review of all other candidates (state and local) here.

There are many important topics I didn't spend much time on, in part because all of the candidates have similar policies - for example, they all want to repeal Citizens United, and they all want immigration reform with a path to citizenship - but in part because my time and ability is limited.

If there is something I left out that you think is important to know about these candidates, please share it with me in comments! The more we know, the better able we are to make good decisions in the upcoming elections.

Know your candidates, know your districts, know your dates, and GO! VOTE!

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