In FL-27, Leadership And Values Are What Counts

I am running for Congress because our community needs someone who will fight tooth and nail for people who have no voice in Washington, DC; someone who will fight for universal health care, not big insurance and drug companies; someone who will fight for fair wages and working people, not powerful insiders.

It’s time for leaders who are ready to meet — head on — the many challenges our community and our country face.

It’s been reported recently that Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Service in the Clinton administration, and former President of the University of Miami, may be entering the Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Obviously, I’d rather she not jump in the race. We have a strong cohort of Democrats already running, any of whom could take the seat back from the Republicans this November. But it’s entirely Ms. Shalala’s decision to make.

But I too have made a decision. I’m staying in this race until every vote is counted — and I intend to be the Democratic nominee and the next member of Congress from Florida’s 27th District.

When I made the choice to get off the sidelines and run, I knew that a long battle awaited me. Isn’t that always the case with anything that is truly worth doing? Since launching this campaign last summer, the support and the energy we have been able to build has been tremendously inspiring. The people of District 27 are ready for a new generation of bold, fearless leaders.

While I have a tremendous amount of respect for Donna Shalala, I am convinced that she has vastly different values than what the people of District 27 want in their member of Congress, especially in this moment.

We have to take back Congress, stand up to Trump and the GOP agenda, all the while fighting for progressive policies that expand opportunity, equality, and justice for ALL, not just the privileged few. It’s unfortunate — in terms of her values and her record — that Shalala’s positioned herself firmly on the opposing side of core, fundamental questions of what the Democratic Party is about — and must be fighting for — in 2018.

We need a representative in congress who will fight for universal, affordable health care for all, and who won’t be afraid to take on Big Insurance and other special interests that stand in the way.

Donna Shalala was on the payroll of one of the biggest insurers in the country, UnitedHealthcare for over a decade — She sat on their board, and was compensated almost $700,000 while premiums for the rest of us went higher and higher.

This is one of the most pressing issues effecting tens of thousands of Miami’s families — and it’s one where Shalala is compromised. And it’s far from the only issue where her credibility is questionable.

Miami was ground zero for the housing crisis that nearly ruined our national economy, decimated people’s retirements, and forced families from their homes — and on this issue, Shalala is again compromised.

From 2001–20012, she sat on the board of one the biggest homebuilders in America. During that same period the company drove up their own revenues by pushing subprime mortgages on homebuyers, contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Shalala remained on their board as our economy went into free fall, and the company laid off nearly half of their employees, while simultaneously deploying an army of lobbyists to secure over a billion dollars in government bailouts for themselves.

There are as many cranes towering along Biscayne Bay today as there were in 2005–2006, before the last housing bust. How could she credibly fight on behalf of distressed homeowners and investors if and when they need her?

It is critical we have a representative who will truly represent and fight for working families in this district. That includes hourly workers who — just like I did from when I was 15 until I graduated from law school — work two or three jobs, washing dishes, cleaning rooms, bussing tables.

Again, as a fighter for working people, Donna Shalala is compromised.

When Donna Shalala had the chance to stand up for workers at U.M. she did everything in her power to crush janitors making under $7 an hour, with no healthcare benefits. Under her watch, these employees who came to work every day, did their jobs cleaning up the campus, literally had to go on hunger strike because they were being denied the dignity and respect of a fair, livable wage.

I believe in a living wage. I believe in affordable, universal healthcare. And I believe in the fundamental right of workers to organize. Those are core values that have been informed by my own life experience, but they are also Democratic values. And Shalala can’t be a credible messenger on any of those issues after what happened at UM.

Finally, as the Trump administration dismantles environmental protections in favor of big business and bigger corporate profits, we need a representative who will fight like hell to stop him.

Donna Shalala took one of Miami’s last wildlife corridors that gave habitat to native species as urban and suburban areas have expanded, and sold it to build a Walmart — A Walmart! — and a large parking lot, over the objections of the community and environmental experts.

In the famous, melancholy words of Joni Mitchell, Shalala quite literally, “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

I’m not going to let someone who has used their positions of power and influence to enrich themselves, while fighting against affordable healthcare, against our lowest wage workers, and against environmental experts in favor of Walmart developers, to just come in and take this seat.

As more members of this community learn about her record, they’ll be appalled. I’m appalled.

She’s going to have a real fight on her hands, I’ll make sure of that.

Republicans may love her. But she’s not the right person for the fight ahead.