South Florida Democrats vie for Jewish vote at candidate forum

First day of early voting in New York

The most vivd exchange at the Broward Dem Jewish Caucus candidates’ forum Monday night came with the mention of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

More than a dozen Democratic candidates, vying for seats ranging from the congressional to the Broward County School Board, stepped up to the Zoom camera to give their elevator pitch at the online event.

And when Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen highlighted his history “fighting Ron DeSantis and his MAGA agenda,” his rival for the Democratic nomination to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch went on the defensive.

DeSantis appointed Jared Moskowitz to run the state’s Emergency Management Division in 2019 and Moskowitz is now the frontrunner in the race to represent Florida’s 23rd Congressional District that stretches from Boca Raton to Fort Lauderdale. It’s a heavily Democratic district.

DeSantis also tapped Moskowitz last year to fill an unexpired term on the Broward County Commission.

Moskowitz’s ties to DeSantis have been criticized and Sorensen last week raised questions about Moskowitz’s links to a DeSantis, pro-President Donald Trump super PAC, but Monday the rivals had a live, public exchange about the Governor.

“Since Ron DeSantis was invoked …” Moskowitz said, highlighting how DeSantis’ appointment made him the country’s only emergency management director who had Holocaust survivors vaccinated for COVID-19 in their homes. “I used that job to help people because helping people in their time of need, especially during a disaster, is a bipartisan issue.”

Rivals to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District also participated in Monday’s event that drew more than 110 people online at one point. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick beat former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by five votes in last November’s Primary election to succeed longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings. But their presentations presented differing points of emphasis, rather than outright clashes.

Chad Klitzman, a former candidate for Broward County Supervisor of Elections, asked the candidates how they would continue the steadfast relationship Hastings fostered with the Jewish community and Israel.

Holness said he believes his community and the Jewish community have strong reasons to stand together because of the attacks they are facing from white supremacists.

“It means life and death,” Holness said. “Synagogues being attacked, Black churches being attacked. There’s a common bond that has existed for centuries between Jews and Blacks in this nation. We must continue that.”

Cherfilus-McCormick discussed how she’s familiar with Abraham Accords that have normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. She’s also the candidate in the race endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she said.

“The most important work I’ve been doing in Congress is to unite all members of Congress to understand that you can have a Democrat who is progressive and still understands that you must prioritize our relationship with Israel,” she said.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book gave a presentation, as did her Democratic rival to represent Senate District 35 in southwestern Broward County, former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, also a gubernatorial candidate made it, but her rival for the Democratic nomination, Charlie Crist, was waylaid by a flight snafu.

Fried said this moment calls for a fighter like her, rather than someone who will stand idly by. She also noted she is the first Jewish woman to serve on the Florida cabinet

It has to be me at this moment in time,” she said, “because we have seen the rise of antisemitism across our state. We’ve got Neo Nazis that are protesting in Orlando, that are at Disney. We saw swastikas that were on the doors of homes in Fort Lauderdale … If we don’t stand up, and we don’t talk about it, and stomp out hate. I don’t know what our future holds.”



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