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Endorsement: For Congressional District 20, Keep Cherfilus-McCormick


July 25 at 2:32 PM ET

Florida’s 20th Congressional District, represented for three decades without serious challenge by the venerable Alcee Hastings, has been wide open since his death last year. Wide open for Democrats in Broward and Palm Beach counties, that is. Republicans in the Legislature left this deep-blue district alone while aggressively gerrymandering others. The three Democratic candidates are Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Miramar, the incumbent; Dale V.C. Holness of Plantation, a former Broward County commissioner; and state Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Lauderdale Lakes. The winner of the Aug. 23 Democratic primary is overwhelmingly favored to win a two-year term in November against a little-known Republican, Drew Montez Clark of Plantation.It’s a rematch — and for Holness, a grudge match — of a special primary election eight months ago that Cherfilus-McCormick won by just five votes over Holness after recounts in both counties. With eight other candidates in that race, both received less than 24% of the vote, so neither could lay claim to a mandate.In last year’s special primary, we did not recommend either candidate to succeed Hastings. We withheld an endorsement from Cherfilus-McCormick after she became the nominee because she had not yet filed a required financial disclosure, which she did later.

Every race is different.

Every political race is different. This time we recommend Cherfilus-McCormick’s re-election to the House for two main reasons.

First, she’s on the job and doing well for a freshman. Once elected, Cherfilus-McCormick, 43, didn’t miss a beat acclimating herself to the workings of Congress, where she serves on three committees: Education and Labor, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Veterans’ Affairs. All three are of particular local interest, considering that one in five District 20 residents lives below the poverty line. She claims credit for millions of dollars toward rental and mortgage assistance and affordable housing.Not heard from — though not forgotten, she says — is her implausible promise to secure $1,000 monthly checks for poor people, a grandiose wealth transfer proposal widely known as universal basic income.

Secondly, Holness is running a smear campaign accusing Cherfilus-McCormick, without proof, of embezzlement, a felony, and trying to link her through innuendo, not evidence, to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump. That’s reprehensible. After Holness texted voters a fundraising pitch that “we don’t need to embezzle $6 million in taxpayer dollars to buy a seat in Congress,” Cherfilus-McCormick filed a libel suit against Holness and a campaign worker, Justin Porter, seeking $1 million in damages.

A clash over ‘packing’Cherfilus-McCormick objects to a controversial proposal to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court with four new, presumably liberal justices. She argued for holding accountable those who she believes lied at Senate confirmation hearings about protecting Roe v. Wade. That would imply impeaching them, which is not viable either, but packing is potentially worse than doing nothing. It would encourage Republicans to retaliate in kind if they reclaim power. Holness, on the other hand, endorses packing as the only way to “take back the court and return it to the people.” Trouble is, it couldn’t pass, and if it did, it would set a bad precedent. Besides, language like that implies that the court should be a political instrument rather than an impartial arbiter of the law and the Constitution.

As a county commissioner, a post he had to vacate to run for Congress the first time, Holness had a habit of blindsiding colleagues with spending proposals, a tactic that wouldn’t play well in Congress. He paid a $1,000 fine to the Florida ethics commission for failing to report income from rental properties. He organized a rally in 2020 to support Gov. Ron DeSantis’ choice of an unqualified Supreme Court justice nominee, Circuit Judge Renatha Francis, after a nominating commission conspicuously bypassed more deserving Black candidates. Holness’ pride in seeing a fellow Caribbean-American succeed is understandable. But no Democrat, especially one with higher political ambitions, should be giving DeSantis political cover to appoint yet another justice from the right-wing Federalist Society.

Yet Holness now uses DeSantis as a cudgel against Cherfilus-McCormick. His lurid campaign literature alleges corruption in the DeSantis administration’s choice of her company, Trinity Health Care Services, for contracts worth $8 million to provide COVID vaccines to underserved and minority communities.That federal money was routed through the state Division of Emergency Management, run at the time by Jared Moskowitz, the only Democratic agency head in DeSantis’ administration. No evidence shows that DeSantis had anything to do with it, that Trinity wasn’t qualified, or that the company did not do good work.

Absent such evidence, Holness is staking his campaign on dirty politics.Cherfilus-McCormick, trained as a lawyer before becoming a prosperous health care executive, was born in Brooklyn of Haitian parentage. Holness, 65, was born in Jamaica and is a real estate broker and owner of rental properties. Rep. Omphroy’s campaign is not nearly as visible as the others’, and she did not participate in a Sun Sentinel candidate interview.

District 20, configured for minority representation, includes parts of Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation, West Palm Beach, Belle Glade, Pahokee and Clewiston, among other cities. In the Democratic primary for Congressional District 20, the Sun Sentinel recommends Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its staff members. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. © 2022 Sun Sentinel--

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