Democratic congressional candidate Bob Poe says his commitment to advocating for increased minimum wages and for felons to receive second chances is starting right now, with his own campaign.
The Congressional District 10 candidate is encouraging people with felony records to apply for positions in his campaign, while offering $15-an-hour minimum wages, through job fairs he’s hosting this week in Orlando and Apopka.
Those are issues he has been running on, like many Democrats, and he said he needs to start demonstrating his belief in them with his own campaign.
“I’ve got to walk the talk,” Poe said.
Typically, campaigns pay entry-level staffers $10-12 an hour, with some paying Florida’s $8.05 minimum wage.
Poe’s campaign has a financial advantage over most, because he is a self-made, wealthy businessman, and he started his run by lending his campaign $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2016. “I found an angel,” he conceded.
Still, he said he is challenging other candidates who support a higher minimum wage, or giving second chances to people with felony records, to do what he is doing: pay a higher wage, offer them job opportunities.
In CD 10 he faces Democrats former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy of Orlando. The only Republican in the race so far is businesswoman Thuy Lowe of Sorrento.
Combined, those candidates have raised only about $700,000, with Demings raising most of that.
Poe’s job fairs are being advertised on circulars and on social media for what is being called his “Second Chance Hiring Event.”
“Bob Poe for Congress is hiring campaign staff! Positions start immediately at $15/hour,” the advertisements declare.
They also state, near the top, “We believe people who have earned it, deserve a second chance to make something of their lives. Anyone with a previous record of incarceration or conviction is encouraged to apply.”
It also states, “Spanish & Creole speaking/bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply!”
CD 10 covers most of west Orlando and west Orange County. It includes some affluent suburbs and neighborhoods such as Windermere, Winter Garden and Poe’s current home neighborhood in College Park. But it also takes in many impoverished neighborhoods, and many African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, such as Pine Hills. It also has a sizable population of Haitian and Jamaican immigrants. Poe often points out he grew up in Pine Hills.
Poe said as he’s been walking the neighborhoods seeking petitions for his campaign, so he’s been asking people if they’re registered voters. He said he’s finding too many who say they cannot vote because they have records and have not had their rights restored. He said if they have paid their debts to society, they deserve second chances.
“You come to realize they are not just disenfranchised from voting, they are disenfranchised economically,” he said. “Their sentence becomes a life sentence. People I have been talking to just want a second chance.”
So far the campaign has held fairs in south Orlando and Apopka. A third event is slated for the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center in west Orlando from 10 a.m. to noon Friday.
Poe and his campaign manager Joshua Romero said they already have interviewed people with felony convictions they expect to hire, along with many who have no felony records.
“We’re getting really quality people,” Poe said.
Most will be doing the grunt work of campaigning: stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, knocking on doors. Some will start as soon as next week.