Democratic House Rep. Alcee Hastings died in April 2021, and now almost nine months later, his replacement, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, is going to Washington DC. This really shouldn’t have taken as long as an average pregnancy, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delayed this as long as he legally could, denying residents of Hastings’s majority Black district congressional representation for almost a year.
But what’s past is past and DeSantis is an asshole. Let’s talk about Cherfilus-McCormick, who easily beat the stuffings out of Republican Jason Mariner, who is pro-insurrection and has Confederate flag tattoos. That can put you at a disadvantage when the electorate is only 21 percent white. Cherfilus-McCormick was leading with 78 percent of the vote at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
She’d challenged Hastings unsuccessfully twice before his death, and she narrowly won the Democratic primary by five votes. The primary was packed with 11 Democrats hoping to replace Hastings. (DeSantis also took forever to schedule the special elections for the three Democratic lawmakers who resigned their seats in order to run.)
Hastings’s family had endorsed Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who was just a packed SUV away from winning this thing. Holness said he had Hastings’s deathbed endorsement or something like that, but there’s no evidence supporting his claim. Cherfilus-McCormick outspent Holness 10 to one, putting $3.7 million of her own money into the race. Yeah, the sister’s got bank. She’s a former health care executive with a reported income of $6.1 million in 2021 alone. I’m pretty sure we’re related.
Cherfilus-McCormick ran on an overtly progressive platform. The one-time health care company CEO supports Medicare for All, as well as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She also supports a universal basic income and proposes sending Americans $1,000 monthly checks funded by tax increases on the wealthy, which includes herself. (She obviously couldn’t say she’d personally give Americans $1,000 monthly checks because that’s illegal.)
During her victory speech last night, Cherfilus-McCormick thanked her supporters and praised her predecessor, Hastings.
"No one thought that a little girl like me who was growing up in the district, who was raising a daughter by myself at a time would ever be here," she said holding back tears. "It means for us to be here, the daughter of immigrants who watched my parents work night and day as taxi cab drivers and a maid, but we made it and we are definitely an example of the American dream."
Although Mariner had no chance of winning, he didn’t just rest on his laurels. He went above and beyond to lose. He’s been convicted of felony theft, cocaine possession, and obstructing justice. His ex-wife had previously accused him of kidnapping and assault. He also admitted to the Daily Beast that he didn’t actually live in the district he wanted to represent. He also thought it was a shithole.
“Let’s face it,” Mariner wrote, “parts of district 20 look like Third World countries.”
Mariner is an advertising executive, but his client pitches aren’t in Don Draper’s league. Mariner reportedly lived in Palm Beach Gardens, which is located in the state's 18th Congressional District. Florida law apparently lets candidates run in districts where they don’t live. They just can’t vote for themselves. That seems both fair and insane.
Cherfilus-McCormick, an actual resident of her district, will have to defend the seat she just won in November. Holness has already filed paperwork to challenge her in the Democratic primary prior to the midterms.
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