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Video: President Joe Biden joins remembrance of Tulsa Race Massacre

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried launches run for governor

Broward County Democrat is party’s only statewide officeholder

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

FloridaTALLAHASSEE (CFP) — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has launched a run for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, calling on her fellow Floridians to help her “break the system” and end what she calls two decades of Republican corruption of state government.

“I’m here to break the rigged system in Florida. It’s corrupt. It’s anti-democratic, and it’s time for something new,” Fried said in a campaign launch video posted on Twitter. “I’m unafraid. I’m tested. I’m ready.”


Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried

Fried, 43, is the only Democrat holding statewide office in the Sunshine State. A former public defender and lobbyist for the marijuana industry, she won a narrow, surprise victory for agriculture commissioner in 2018 as a urban Democrat, a position usually associated with rural and farming interests.

Since taking office, she had become a fierce critic of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, most recently for his support for a law that imposes new restrictions on voting and a measure that bars transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

But before she can get to DeSantis, Fried will have to win a competitive Democratic primary that includes U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist from St. Petersburg, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican, and possibly State Senator Annette Taddeo, a Hispanic lawmaker from Miami-Dade who will compete with Fried in vote-rich South Florida.

Democrats haven’t won Florida’s governorship since 1994.

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Bold move or fool’s errand? Val Demings will take on Marco Rubio

Decision by Orlando congresswomen to get into U.S. Senate race gives Democrats a high-profile candidate to try to unseat Miami Republican

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

FloridaORLANDO (CFP) — Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings burst onto the national political scene in early 2020 when she was picked as a House impeachment manager to make the case against Donald Trump — so much so that she soon found herself on Joe Biden’s vice presidential short list and was chattered about as a possible Cabinet secretary.


U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida

Now, Demings had decided to give up her safe House seat in Orlando after just three terms to run against Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio next year, as Democrats fight to hang on to their slim Senate majority.

Demings has not yet officially announced, but sources close to her have leaked her decision to run to media outlets, possibly in a move to discourage another metro Orlando Democratic congresswoman, Stephanie Murphy, from getting into the Senate race and forcing a primary.

And while her run will no doubt excite the Democratic base, she faces a daunting uphill climb in trying to unseat Rubio.

First, Florida — once considered the swingiest of swing states — has moved more into the Republican column. Donald Trump won by a bigger margin in 2020 than he did in 2016. Just one Democrat has won a Senate election in the past 20 years (Bill Nelson), and Republicans control all of the levers of power in Tallahassee.

Indeed, Demings looked at running against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis next year and decided to pass, a testament to the lock that the GOP has on state offices. (A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor since 1994).

Also, the Florida Democratic Party has been in significant disarray after a string of disappointing election cycles. The party was so broke that health insurance lapsed for its employees earlier this year. While the new party chairman, Manny Diaz, the former mayor of Miami, has started to right the ship, Republicans have a huge organizational advantage.

An even bigger challenge for Demings will be trying to unseat a senator who has managed to navigate the Trump currents in his party and can rely on deep roots in Miami-Dade’s powerful Cuban-American community.

Rubio — who famously made fun of Trump’s hands when he ran against him for president in 2016 — has managed to remain enough of a Trump loyalist not to get on his bad side, while not being as relentlessly pro-Trump as other leaders in his party.

Indeed, Trump — who delighted in denigrating Rubio as “Little Marco” in 2016 — endorsed his re-election in April, and Rubio appears unlikely to face a significant primary challenge from the Trump wing of the party.

Rubio, as a Cuban-American, will also have a strong base among Cuban voters in Miami-Dade County, which could demographically preclude a Democratic win.

To win statewide in Florida, a Democrat has to roll up huge margins in the Democratic areas of Tampa, Orlando and Broward and Palm Beach counties and keep enough of a lead in Miami-Dade to overcome the heavy Republican vote across the rest of the state.

Rubio on the ballot will make that task harder. Indeed, the 2020 election provided a painful lesson for Democrats when a collapse in the Democratic vote among Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade doomed Joe Biden and swept away Democratic U.S. House members Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Demings will perhaps be able to mitigate that problem with counter-turnout in fast-growing Orlando, where she served as police chief and her husband, Jerry, a former sheriff, is mayor of Orange County. With her national profile, she will also be able to raise piles of money, as she tries to make history as the first African American ever elected to the Senate from the Sunshine State.

Although U.S. House maps will be redrawn before 2022, Demings’s majority-minority district anchored in Orlando would probably have remained safe for her. So the decision to run for the Senate will short-circuit what could be a substantial, long-term career in the lower House.

High risk, high reward. So is she making a bold move or embarking on a fool’s errand? The next year will tell the tale.

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Voters head to polls Saturday to fill vacant Texas U.S. House seat

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Widow of late GOP U.S. Rep. Ron Wright among 23 candidates in 6th District race

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

TexasARLINGTON, Texas (CFP) — Voters in Texas 6th U.S. House District will head to the polls Saturday to choose from among 23 candidates in a special election to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, who died in February from COVID-19.

Among the candidates in the field are Wright’s widow, Susan, along with an assault-weapon-toting former professional wrestler who ran for Congress in Nevada in November, a Korean-American who made headlines with anti-Chinese comments, and that rarest of creatures, an openly anti-Trump Republican.

A key question to be answered in Saturday’s all-party contest will be whether any of the 10 Democrats in the race can gain a spot in a likely runoff and flip a district Donald Trump carried by just 3 points in November.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. in the metro Dallas-Fort Worth district, which includes Arlington and parts of Tarrant County, along with Ellis and Navarro counties to the south.

Among Republicans, polls have shown Susan Wright in a close fight with State Rep. Jake Elizey from Ellis County, just ahead of Brian Harrison, a former chief of staff in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration who led the race in fundraising.

Among Democrats, Jana Lynne Sanchez, whose unsuccessful 2018 race against Ron Wright was chronicled in the Showtime documentary “Surge,” has led in the polls.

She is competing for Democratic votes against Shawn Lassiter, a public school administrator from Fort Worth who was the top fundraiser among Democratic candidates, and Lydia Bean, a university researcher who was endorsed by the Tarrant County AFL-CIO.

Democrat Stephen Daniel, who lost to Ron Wright by 7 points in November, did not run again.

The race — the second special election for a Republican-held seat since Trump’s loss in November — drew national attention due to a number of colorful candidates who entered the wide-open contest.

Dan Rodimer, a former professional wrestler who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for a House seat in the Las Vegas area in 2020, parachuted into Texas to try again, airing an ad in which he carried an assault rifle and vowed to “strip power” from President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a stance that raised eyebrows in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Sery Kim, a Korean-American who served in the Small Business Administration under Trump, drew criticism when she said during a forum that she did not want Chinese immigrants in the United States “at all” and blamed them for bringing  COVID-19 into the United States.

While she insisted that her remarks were directed at the Chinese Communist Party and were not racist, she was unendorsed by both Korean-American women Republicans now serving in Congress.

Michael Wood, a businessman and former Marine Corps officer, ran openly in the race as an anti-Trump Republican, charging that the GOP has devolved into a “cult of personality” and calling Trump’s actions before the Jan. 6 attack “one of the worst things an American president has ever done.”

While that earned him an endorsement from Trump critic U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Saturday will be a test of what that message has any resonance among suburban Republicans in the Lone Star State.

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South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott gives GOP rebuttal to Joe Biden address

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