Crowded Democratic Primary shaping up to replace Patricia Hawkins-Williams

Keith Abel, Fitzgerald Budhoo, Shelton Pooler and Steven Meza
All 4 candidates are vying for their first elected office.

The contest to succeed Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams is turning into a crowded Primary with four Democrats making a bid to represent Broward County’s House District 98.

All four vying to represent the inland district that takes in central Pompano Beach are on the hunt for their first elected office and some of them were contenders in the same 2020 Senate Primary that Sen. Perry Thurston ultimately won in Senate District 33.

The candidates are:

Keith Abel, a 2019 retiree from the U.S. Army, ran for West Park City Commission in 2020 and now serves as President of the Broward County Veteran Caucus. With a master’s degree in logistics and supply chain management from Florida International University, his biggest priorities are affordable housing and property insurance and veterans’ needs

Fitzgerald Budhoo of Oakland Park, a Miami-Dade County solid waste retiree, was a candidate for Oakland Park City Commission in 2022. With a master’s degree in business management from Florida International University, he hopes to put his background in union leadership to work on infrastructure and transportation needs, environmental issues and improving education.

Steven Meza, who’s worked as an aide to City Commissioners throughout Broward County, has been a candidate previously as well. He lost in a four-way 2020 Democratic Primary. He said his interest lies in small business development and infrastructure.

Shelton Pooler, a candidate for Pompano City Commission in 2014 and for Senate in 2020, also against Thurston. The small business owner of a pest control business names affordable housing, job development, education and health care issues as his top issues.

Williams’ legislative aide, Robert Moore Sr., had put a bid in for the seat too. But he withdrew from the race.

Williams’ successor will have a large role to fill. As the ranking Democrat on the House Education & Employment Committee and the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, Hawkins-Williams has been leading the Democratic opposition against expanding the ways public education dollars go to charter and private schools.

The inland district they are competing to represent extends to Broward County’s border with Palm Beach County to the north and extends south to Lauderdale Lakes, roughly defined by Florida’s Turnpike to its west and North Dixie Highway to its east.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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