Delegation for 4.20.21: 2022 battle — easy money — corruption — farmers — red flag

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Too soon? 2022 is coming fast.

2022 battlefront

Where will the hot races be by this time next year?

Cook Political Report released partisan voting index ratings Friday for every House district in the nation. That includes all 27 Florida districts — from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s bright red Panhandle jurisdiction to Rep. Frederica Wilson’s deep blue Hollywood home.

Prognosticators graded Florida as a whole as R+3, good news for Sen. Marco Rubio, who faces reelection.

But despite the state’s pink(ish) hue, there are waves of blue and purple across the peninsula. Of course, the Florida Legislature will redraw the boundaries as part of a once-a-decade reapportionment next year.

The Cook Political Report has some good news for Marco Rubio’s reelection hopes.

These ratings become an essential baseline for lawmakers to carve Florida in 27 (or 28 or 29?) equal parts.

Were lines static, two South Florida Congress members would be in the most significant trouble, namely Republicans Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez, the only incumbents in the delegation representing districts that favor the opposing party.

Both defeated incumbent Democrats — Salazar beating Donna Shalala and Giménez ousting Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — to win their seats.

Now Salazar represents a D+4 district where Democrat Joe Biden won with 51.2%. ‘

Only one Republican Congress member represents a more Democratic constituency than Salazar — CD 27 is more Democratic than three Florida districts held by Democrats.

Giménez enjoys a slightly better environment in a D+1 district. Trump’s solid performance in CD 26 may have helped; the former President won the district with 52.4% of the vote in 2020 after Hillary Clinton beat him there with 56% four years prior. The return of Cuban Miami to the R column may mean Giménez will benefit from a trend.

Only one Florida district gets labeled a coin toss by the cook team: Florida’s 13th District, represented in the last four years by Democrat Charlie Crist. The former Republican Governor knows voters’ language in both major parties, which helped him win with a six-percentage-point margin in 2020. Biden won the district as well, with a modest 51.4%. Crist, a Pinellas Democrat, also got to Congress by defeating an incumbent from the opposite party, now-former Republican David Jolly.

But it would not take much for the Republican Legislature to shove this closely balanced district a little redder.

Republicans also have eyes on Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy sits in a D+3 district Biden won by more than 10 percentage points. Of course, Republicans could easily make this more competitive. Even with its current makeup, Murphy is vulnerable to a 2010-like Republican wave in the first midterms of the Biden administration. That’s if Murphy seeks a third term, which is a pretty big “if.”

The biggest surprise may be Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto isn’t in a much safer place in Florida’s 9th Congressional District. In a D+3 zone, Biden won a smaller percentage of the vote in Soto’s CD 9 than in Murphy’s CD 7. That may be a sign that Murphy’s district is trending blue while Soto’s is shifting purple.

Bottom line — there are three Florida Democrats in less than D+5 districts. All represent districts less Democratic than Salazar’s, and Crist is in a less Democratic area than Giménez.

Early money

Gaetz is fighting for his political life as reports of federal criminal investigations swirl. But looking ahead to those 2022 elections, the Fort Walton Beach Republican is the early money favorite.

That’s campaign money.

He collected $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2021, the first reporting period of the 2022 election cycle. That left him sitting on $2 million April 1, two days after the reports first started surfacing about federal investigators probing a sex trafficking scandal involving him.

Gaetz drew twice as much as any other candidate in Florida.

Other top fundraising efforts for Republicans included Brian Mast of Stuart, whose campaign picked up $749,000 in the first quarter; Salazar of Miami, $525,000; Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, $375,000 and Byron Donalds of Naples, $365,000.

Val Demings of Orlando had the best quarter among Florida Democrats, raising $353,000. Other top Democratic fundraising efforts came from Crist of St. Petersburg, $347,000; Murphy of Winter Park, $338,000; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, $108,000. No other Democratic incumbent collected as much as $100,000.

Among non-incumbents, Republican Carla Spalding of Plantation raised $184,000 in her bid to challenge Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who filed to challenge fellow Republican Dan Webster in Florida’s 11th Congressional District but likely is counting on a new district created for his area, raised $172,000. Republican Erick Javier Aguilar of Jacksonville raised $135,000 for a primary challenge of John Rutherford of Jacksonville. Barbara Sharief of Davie raised $120,000 for the now-open seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Alcee Hastings died earlier this month.

Lunch money

Sometimes the most personal fights in Washington arise not between parties but between chambers. And this week, Sen. Rubio decided to come for the House’s lunch.

The Miami Republican, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, questioned their commissary contract with Sodexo. He said the French company faces a “long list of disturbing scandals and anti-worker abuses,” including overcharging public schools, threatening union members, and discriminating against Blacks. He pointed to a report from Human Rights Watch as the source of this litany of concerns.

Marco Rubio questions where Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy get their lunch. Image via AP.

“The company’s history is rife with other allegations as well as jaw-dropping eight-figure settlements, including one with Black employees who claimed systemic discrimination by the firm. It has also been involved in a horse meat scandal and settled with the New York State Attorney General over its practice of overcharging public schools in that state,” Rubio writes.

What seems to have ticked off Rubio most is that the company signed a statement — joined by several corporations — blasting states that implement voter ID laws.

“In the United States, individuals and corporations are free to speak their minds,” Rubio wrote. “Companies like Sodexo are at liberty to insert their uninformed views about voting laws further into our national debate, even when they’re parroting partisan talking points entirely disconnected from reality — or, worse yet, just desperate to placate left-wing investors or conform to the woke pathologies that have come to dominate elite polite society.”

Corrupt corporations

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott makes an unlikely corporate critic, but in the wake of companies reacting to changes in voting laws in Georgia, the Senator is now blasting “corrupt” corporations.

“It turns out that power does corrupt, and you have become corrupt. American taxpayers will soon stop tolerating your lies, your attempts to denigrate them, and your attempts to control the way they think, act, talk,” Scott wrote in an editorial for Fox Business.

Rick Scott takes a very un-Republican opinion of corporations. Image via AP.

The Senator, excoriating “woke corporate America” and variants thereof, also had strong words for the news media.

“Amazingly, the woke, liberal corporate news media is just as dishonest as you. They support your lies. And the President of the United States, Joe Biden, shows you the way. He demonstrates how to lie in public and get away with it.”

Scott, who helms the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will undoubtedly continue to message heavily on national issues.

Fighting for farmers

Throughout last year’s Congressional campaign, Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack frequently spoke of how federal policy cost her parents their cattle ranch. Now, she’s lashing out at a Biden administration decision to discontinue the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Farmers To Families Food Box Program was a lifeline for millions of hungry families across the country. This program bought fresh meat, dairy and produce from American farmers and directed it to Americans in need — regardless of status, income or household size — to provide a source of food for those who needed it most and ensured fresh produce didn’t go to waste,” Cammack said.

Kat Cammack is a farmer at heart. and she has their backs. 

The Congresswoman said many farmers resorted to destroying some of their crops and reusing them to till fields. But she said the program allows many a mutually beneficial solution for them and the food recipients.

Launched as the pandemic disrupted supply chains and left some farmers pouring dairy into fields before it spoiled, the U.S. Department of Agriculture program provided a means for farmers and food distributors to sell their products.

The program already delivered 158.5 million packages of produce, milk, dairy and cooked meat to disadvantaged Americans. The Congresswoman argued the program had thorough vetting in place and helped serve many food recipients who could not take advantage of other federal food programs.

“The program’s cancellation signals what we’ve known since President Biden first took office: farmers are at the bottom of this administration’s priority list,” Cammack said. “Many Florida producers took advantage of this program to help their neighbors, and ending this program is merely a disservice to communities in need. We know that food security is national security, and I urge Secretary [Tom] Vilsack and his team to reconsider this decision.”

Waving the red flag

Micheal Waltz made a case for Florida’s red flag laws during an interview with CNN.

While the conservative went on air to push against Democratic proposals like universal background checks, he suggested a way forward that could have broader bipartisan support: Make national the restrictions passed by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018.

The St. Augustine Republican noted guns purchased in high-profile shootings like a recent one in Atlanta using legally purchased guns following a background check.

Instead of aiming to block gun purchases, Waltz suggested Congress should seek ways to step in when an individual begins exhibiting violent behavior.

Michael Waltz supports red-flag laws, even if the NRA disagrees. Image via AP.

“If you look at Florida, we had the Parkland shooting, and if you look at the legislation our Legislature passed after that, including a red flag law,” he said.

That allows police to go to a judge and to intervene if an individual exhibits behavior or if police receive calls flagging someone as a violent risk.

“Oftentimes, these shooters are flagging on social media, to their relatives, their friends or others, that they intend to do harm and they intend to do violence,” Waltz said. “We now have a mechanism with due process in place where you can take those firearms out of their hands temporarily. Our judges support it. Our law enforcement supports it, and it’s been used 3,500 times since then to good effect.”

Still, it’s notable that Waltz is promoting the bill, considering who isn’t supporting it. The National Rifle Association challenged the law in court, and Second Amendment activists have railed against the approach for years.

Red tide response

Sarasota Republican Buchanan pushed the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to help avoid a disaster at Piney Point. Now he wants to make sure other federal agencies remain ready and vigilant to watch for algal blooms.

Buchanan co-sponsored the Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act to require “stringent monitoring” of harmful algae at all times.

“This is an important safeguard as we learned during the 35-day government shutdown in 2018/19,” Buchanan said. “Monitoring is essential so we can protect people’s health and take swift action to protect our coastal ecosystem.”

Florida’s red tide may be making a comeback, and Vern Buchanan wants to address the problem now. Image via ABC News.

He noted the legislative action as Sarasota County reported its first red tide-related beach closure and fish kills this year tied to red tide. The arrival of the toxic algae comes as little surprise; Buchanan warned after a helicopter tour around Piney Point that he could see from the sky troubling signs of blooms as environmental agencies pumped more than 200 million gallons out of the Piney Point abandoned phosphorus mine directly into Tampa Bay.

The water had to be pumped from a breached reservoir on the property to avoid a complete collapse, which threatened more than 300 homes with potential flash flooding.

But Buchanan’s push for greater monitoring also comes a few years after a red ride ravaged the Florida coast and significantly dampened the tourism economy in 2018. “Water quality is a top priority in our region,” he said. “It becomes even more important when you consider the health and economic impact to our region.”

Better than tips?

Is unemployment keeping many restaurant workers staying at home? That was the takeaway for Greg Steube after a roundtable with restaurateurs in Venice.

“Florida’s economy is recovering in many aspects, but if we do not work together with our local partners to solve this staffing shortage, our reopening process will slip backward, and some of our shuttered neighborhood businesses may never reopen,” the Sarasota Republican said. “If any policies are incentivizing people to stay home instead of coming back to work, we must take a second look at our funding formulas and eligibility criteria for these extended unemployment benefits. The future of our state economy depends on it.”

Heavy tipper: Greg Steube believes unemployment should not be more lucrative than work.

And several restaurant owners said workers waiting tables and cooking food before the pandemic simply don’t want to risk a return to work when they can claim unemployment. Steube said that could persist since the American Rescue extends $250 a week in unemployment for gig employees.

Steube co-sponsored legislation that prevents workers from pulling more home in unemployment than the job they lost, but that was not considered.

He said many restaurants in his district couldn’t pay enough to bring workers back, pointing to public statements asserting as much.

“It’s becoming a wage war for skilled labor,” Vito Recchia, owner of Port Charlotte’s Bella Napoli and Taglio Cucina & Pizzeria Romana, told the Charlotte Sun.

The value of debt

The Senate Banking and Commerce Committee turned to House members to testify on student debt proposals, and Naples Republican Donalds made the case against waiving obligations. He argued to the upper chamber that a proposal focused on easing the burden for university grads would inevitably shift the problem to working-class families, including in Black communities where few go to college.

“If this policy moves forward, it will result in even higher tuition costs for students who plan to go to college in future years, with the disastrous collateral damage elsewhere in the economy, including and especially to low-income families and African American communities,” he said.

Byron Donalds says excusing student debt just spreads the pain around. Image via Colin Hackley.

“Do we call on those who did not go to universities to pay for those who did?”

He said the Democratic proposals end up granting greater forgiveness to college and university students than those going into debt to pay for trade schools and skills training for blue-collar work.

The freshman lawmaker stressed he understands the challenges of student loans. He’s still paying off debts for his education at Florida A&M University and Florida State University. “There is no question my education is worth far more than what I am still paying back.”

Protecting Afghan women

Leaders within Florida’s delegation pushed the State Department to empower Afghan women to modernize their country. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Republican Waltz, co-chairs of the Women, Peace and Security Caucus, led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to that effect last week.

“We are concerned about the impact of a possible power-sharing agreement between the Afghan Government and the Taliban,” the letter reads. “Although such proposals include directives to provide special consideration for, and inclusion of, women in government positions, that does not guarantee their representation. Any new government structure should ensure women have meaningful representation to help safeguard their rights.”

Michael Waltz and Lois Frankel team up to protect Afghan women.

Earlier this month, the caucus met with Fatima Gailani, Fawzia Koofi, Habiba Sarabi and Sharifa Zurmati, the four women negotiators on Afghanistan’s Peace Negotiation Team. Especially with news of the U.S. intention to withdraw its troop presence in the country, the group stressed a need to preserve advancement for women and girls.

Frankel and Waltz wrote a setback can’t be allowed to happen, and the U.S. should take note that the Afghan government may not be doing enough to protect the gender advances of the past 20 years.

 “In last month’s Extended Troika in Moscow, women were woefully underrepresented,” the letter reads. “Therefore, should additional peace talks come to fruition in Istanbul, Turkey, we urge you to ensure increased women’s participation and to amplify women’s voices both at the formal negotiating table and in informal civil society-driven events, discussions, and processes. Afghan women leaders and civil society organizations have been meeting and mobilizing for years to gather input from women on what is needed to build peace in their communities and across the country. This vital information must be taken into account and should not be overlooked.”

Cuban reunification reboot

Several members of the Florida delegation are working together on a bipartisan bill seeking to speed up reunification applications for U.S. citizens and permanent residents with family in Cuba.

Miami Republican Mario Díaz-Balart, Giménez, Murphy and Salazar are behind the Cuban Family Reunification Modernization Act of 2021. The bill aims to reboot the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which began in 2007. That process allowed individuals in Cuba to stay in the U.S. while waiting on their immigration visas. A relative inside the U.S. with proper residency status must first petition the government to bring that person over from Cuba.

Mario Díaz-Balart and María Salazar are pushing for Cuban reunification.

But that process has stopped since a 2017 incident where U.S. diplomatic representatives in Cuba began experiencing the ill effects from what the U.S. speculated was a targeted attack. That issue caused the U.S. to reduce embassy staffing, in turn causing a slowdown in CFRP applications. In the meantime, there’s a backlog of more than 100,000 applications.

The bill from Florida’s lawmakers allows the U.S. Naval base in Guantánamo Bay to begin working through and processing those applications.

“The Cuban people are suffering under the chokehold of socialism, families remain separated by the brutal Castro regime, and the situation is more dire than it has even been after the sonic attacks in Havana essentially shut down U.S. consular services on the island,” Salazar told el Nuevo Herald in a statement supporting the legislation.

The bill is expected to be filed Tuesday. “In contrast to the chaos at the border, codifying this program will ensure an orderly, secure, and safe way for Cubans to have their applications processed on the island,” Díaz-Balart added.

On this day

April 20, 1871 — “The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871” via U.S. House Archives — The House approved “An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for Other Purposes,” also known as the “Ku Klux Klan Act.” Introduced by Rep. Samuel Shellabarger of Ohio, the bill passed after nearly a week of heated debate in the House and the Senate. The Ku Klux Klan Act, the third of a series of increasingly stringent Enforcement Acts, was designed to eliminate extralegal violence and protect the civil and political rights of 4 million freed slaves.

April 20, 1971 — “Supreme Court rules that busing can be used to integrate schools” via The New York Times — Many neighborhood schools remained segregated due to the demographics of a city or town; children who lived in predominantly Black neighborhoods still did not go to the same schools as white children, and vice versa. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina, 14,000 of the 24,000 Black students in the 1968-69 school year attended schools that were at least 99% Black. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People challenged the Charlotte-Mecklenburg board in the mid-1960s and won the case in 1969 when Judge James B. McMillan ruled the school district must use busing to achieve racial diversity in its schools.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski, Ryan Nicol and Scott Powers.

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