Saima Farooqui
Saima Farooqui
Courtesy photo

The Ten Progressive Candidates in South Florida

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election by running as an anti-establishment, outsider candidate. (Russia may have helped, too.) In 2018, the Democratic party is responding by propping up outsider candidates of their own, often with political positions substantially to the left of traditional Democratic candidates.

Many of South Florida's crop of candidates are women. Some are backed by Democratic Socialists, others are registered Independents, and some have been directly endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself. Many were directly affected by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But all represent a progressive new chapter in South Florida politics.

Here are the top ten progressive candidates running for public office in 2018.

1. Saima Farooqui, Florida State House of Representatives District 96. Saima Farooqui is the Vice President of the Coconut Creek Democratic Club and Secretary of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus of Florida, according to her campaign website. She is a first-time candidate running for office in a state House of Representatives district that includes Parkland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students were killed earlier this year in a mass shooting. Farooqui would be the first Muslim elected to Florida’s State House if she wins her race. She also served as an American Civil Liberties Union legal observer at an #AbolishICE action at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, according to Dara Lind with the Broward chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Farooqui has been endorsed by the Dolphin Democrats, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

2. Sabrina Javellana, Hallandale Beach City Commission Seat No. 2. Javellana is running for Commission Seat 2, which is currently held by Richard Dally, a president of the Broward Young Democrats. Dally was sworn in under unusual circumstances and questions whether other commissioners violated public meetings laws to coordinate his appointment in a city recently mired in controversy. “I definitely consider myself to be a progressive within the Democratic Party,” Javellana told New Times. “And trying to change it within.” She is a lifelong Hallandale Beach resident, an activist who participated at #AbolishICE protests in Miramar and the March for Our Lives among other organizing efforts, and a founder of the Hallandale Beach Area Democratic Club. Javellana also works at a consulting agency run by former Democratic state Senator Eleanor Sobel. “Broward can be the starting point in Florida for more progressive elected officials if we as a people support these people-powered and focused campaigns. Concession is often mistaken for progress,” Javellana said. “We’re a place like no other in this state and I’m stepping up and running to serve my community because I see the future we can be.”

3. Elijah Manley, Broward County School Board at-large Seat No. 8. Manley is running for a Broward School Board seat with passion for improving accountability and oversight of the voter-approved $800 million program to renovate schools. Manley, 19, is running against Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was killed in the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Sun Sentinel endorsed incumbent Donna Korn in the race shortly after unearthing old tweets from Petty that include mocking the public schooling others received. Manley has been actively involved with the Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward for years and touted his fundraising ethics when describing what made him the most progressive candidate in his race. “A true progressive is one that does not take money from special interest groups, and are all about helping the average person,” Manley said. “Having an open mind and being susceptible to new ideas while holding on to your principles is what ultimately being a progressive is about.”

4. Ryan Ross, Broward County Commission District 2. Ross is a Coral Springs High School teacher trying to unseat Broward Vice Mayor Mark Bogen in a District that includes Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Margate and Pompano Beach. He served as the 2017 delegate for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida to the Florida Democratic Party, according to his campaign site.

The mudslinging in this race has gotten downright nasty. Ross has tweeted “money laundering” accusations against Bogen and alleged he took insurance money from Wynmoor retirement community residents. Bogen and the Sun-Sentinel have both sent Ross cease-and-desist letters. The Sentinel reported Ross was a registered Republican before becoming a Democrat in 2016, but Ross is seen as a bonafide progressive à la Bernie Sanders or Tim Canova, according to Broward School Board candidate Elijah Manley. “Ryan Ross has a genuine motive for running for office. He doesn't see a reason to sell out the people,” Manley said.

5. Aron Davis, Plantation Mayor. Davis is running for Mayor as an Independent against four others, including two incumbent councilmembers, Lynn Stoner and Pete Tingom. He grew up in South Florida and works at Pembroke Pines Charter High School, teaching computer programming. “I got involved a lot with net neutrality on the state level,” Davis said in an interview streamed via Facebook Live to a Plantation Politics And Community Concerns public group. His commitment to the issue is apparent by its top billing on the issues page of his campaign site: “Internet providers have failed us. Time and time again they have shown their greed and corruption. From stealing billions of taxpayer dollars to providing overpriced and inadequate service. Under the City of Plantation's Code of Ordinances § 5.5-32, Ord. No. 2139, we can provide faster, more affordable internet through municipal broadband — all while boosting our local economy and ensuring net neutrality is enforced.” Davis’ agenda prioritizes digitizing city services, implementing a home composting program to improve recycling, and offering hurricane-resistant tree-planting incentives. “His entire agenda is to help people. His entire platform is about making things work easier in his city,” Manley said about Davis.

6. Joshua Simmons, Coral Springs City Commission Seat No. 4. Simmons, 29, seeks election to seat No. 4, held by Vice Mayor Lou Cimaglia, whose financial woes made the news once upon a time. He is a Coral Springs High School teacher and former mental health therapist who moved to the area in 2011. Simmons has received endorsements from Run for Something, a political organization that aims to “recruit and support young diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build a bench for the future,” and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. While serving on multiple city committees, Simmons helped found the Broward Young Black Progressives, a millennial-empowering political group. “To me, this isn’t a gig, this isn’t something for me to hang my hat on, this is for the future of Coral Springs and helping the city become the jewel of Northwest Broward,” Simmons told local news site Coral Springs Talk. He also helped police identify a man who threatened to shoot up the high school he teaches at earlier this year.

7. Andrew Dolberg, Florida State House of Representatives District 98. Dolberg, a Broward County native, is in a five-way primary race to replace Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, who is not seeking re-election after marrying and becoming a step-mother, according to the Sun Sentinel. The Broward Young Democrats Board Member has won endorsements from the Dolphin Democrats LGBT community and Blue Broward, a non-profit political site for county Democrats that claims it is not “owned by the party.” Dolberg, 25, has also been endorsed by local elected officials, including state Sen. Lauren Book, Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek; Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, according to the Sun Sentinel. District 98 includes parts of Davie, Plantation, and Sunrise.

8. Tennille Doe-Decoste, Broward County School Board District 4. Doe-Decoste is running for a School Board as a parent whose son lost his friend, Joaquin Oliver, in the Parkland shooting. “My son just graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas grateful that he survived the shooting, but profoundly sad that his best friend since third grade, Joaquin Oliver, didn’t,” she told Florida Politics. Lori Alhadeff, Doe-Decoste’s opponent in the race, is the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, who was murdered at Stoneman Douglas. While both support school safety, there are important distinctions in their platforms. Doe-Decoste, an assistant director for the city of Miramar, is against metal detectors and teachers carrying guns but for improving mental health programs. Alhadeff supports metal detectors, along with mandatory IDs, bulletproof doors for classrooms and backpacks for students and having students and teachers “trained in emergency procedures.” Doe-Decoste has been endorsed by the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association, the Dolphin Democrats LGBT caucus, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, Coral Springs City Commissioner Joy Carter, Tamarac City Commissioner Julie Fishman and North Lauderdale City Commissioner Samson Borgelin.

9. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida Congressional District 20. Cherfilus-McCormick is challenging U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, 81, who is twice her age. Hastings has accepted campaign donations from Boca Raton-based private prison company and immigrant detention operator The GEO Group this election cycle while telling #AbolishICE protesters he supports a law to replace U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, fighting the deportation of more than 60,000 Haitian immigrants and supporting an amendment that would have created a pathway to citizenship for long-term Temporary Protected Status holders. Cherfilus-McCormick opposes the use of private jails and prisons nationwide. Besides Hastings’ inconsistent words and actions on immigration reform, the Sun-Sentinel notes his supporters “have stood beside him through a bribery and obstruction of justice trial, which resulted in his acquittal; and impeachment proceedings, which resulted in his removal from the federal bench.” Hastings also faced accusations of sexual harassment which were settled for $220,000 in 2014. In an election year filled with news cycles reporting child separations and family detention at GEO Group-operated centers, Cherfilus-McCormick’s inexperience and arguably cleaner campaign financing may appeal more to progressives than Hastings’ decades of public service.

10. Tim Canova, U.S. House of Representatives, Florida Congressional District 23. Canova is maybe the quintessential “too-progressive-to-be-a-Democrat” candidate in Broward County, running as an Independent against incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-23). Canova left the Democratic Party after challenging Wasserman-Schultz in 2016 and falling short 6,675 votes, according to certified results, which he sued in court to verify. The court eventually ruled that Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes illegally destroyed all paper ballots in the Nova Southeastern University law professor’s primary against Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Undeterred, Canova is running against her again as a self-identified “Berniecrat progressive,” without the Vermont Senator’s endorsement, which he received in 2016. “I have no idea about Tim Canova, I honestly don’t,” Sanders told the Miami Herald last June. “I know nothing about Tim Canova.” Canova’s endorsements this cycle do include the Communication Workers of America, Progressive Democrats of America and National Nurses United.

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