U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, the longest-serving member of the Florida congressional delegation, has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The 84-year-old Hastings announced in early 2019 he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and began receiving treatment at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“My doctors have stated that the advancement in the treatment of cancer is evolutionary and the success rates continue to climb resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number of cancer-related deaths,” Hastings said in a statement at the time. “I have been convinced that this is a battle worth fighting, and my life is defined by fighting battles worth fighting.
“In the midst of this traumatizing news, I found myself wondering not only if I would survive this disease, but also if it would impact my ability to perform my duties,” Hastings said.
Hastings first won election to the U.S. House nearly 30 years ago in 1992.
Hastings’ election was a landmark event as he and two other Black Democrats — Corrine Brown and Carrie Meek — were elected to Congress.
He received praise Tuesday for his work on civil rights issues. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch also said Hastings “knew the importance of bringing together the Black and Jewish communities to achieve shared goals. He was a staunch supporter of the US-Israel relationship and valued the important bilateral partnership.”
Senator and Democratic Leader-Designate Perry Thurston issued a statement on Hastings’ passing Tuesday morning.
“Our community and state has lost a dedicated and steadfast leader this morning. It is with a heavy heart that I express my deepest condolences to the Hastings family for the passing of my friend, mentor, fraternity brother and our leader, Congressman Alcee Hastings,” Thurston said.
“Congressman Hastings has been our political dean for South Florida for the last three decades. The lives he impacted are countless and our community, state and nation are better because of his long commitment to public service. We are indebted to his family and we will miss him and his leadership. Congressman Hastings’ legacy will forever live on in our community. Rest in Peace my Brother and Our Congressman, Alcee Hastings.”
Several other Florida lawmakers have also begun remembering Hastings’ life and service.
Hastings represented Florida’s 20th Congressional District, which stretches across Broward County to Palm Beach County. It spans several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The seat is a Democratic stronghold, giving Hastings sizable influence among the region’s Black community. He helped push Harold Pryor over the top in a heavily contested Democratic primary for Broward County State Attorney. Pryor went on to win the General Election contest in deep blue Broward, becoming the county’s first-ever Black State Attorney and its first new State Attorney in more than four decades.
Hastings was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served as a senior whip in the House.
Hastings began his time in Congress after a controversial tenure serving as a U.S. District Court Judge in the Southern District of Florida. In 1988, the U.S. House impeached Hastings after bribery and perjury allegations. The U.S. Senate voted to convict and remove him from the position after just under 10 years on the District Court.
The Senate did not, however, bar him from seeking future office as a term of his removal. Thus, Hastings was free to run for Congress a few years later.
A native of Altamonte Springs, Hastings graduated from Fisk University and received a law degree from Florida A&M University, according to his U.S. House webpage.
Before Tuesday’s news, several candidates had already shown interest in running for Hastings’ seat. Democratic candidates Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Barbara Sharief have filed paperwork. Cherfilus-McCormick unsuccessfully challenged Hastings last cycle, while Sharief is seeking a transition from the Broward County Commission, as she faces term limits on that body.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.