By Kevin Deutsch
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, the lawyer and health care executive who used millions from her own fortune to power her congressional campaign, won the special election Tuesday to replace the late Alcee Hastings, becoming the newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This is just the beginning,” the new congresswoman Tweeted to her followers Tuesday night. “Thank you for standing with me, District 20! It’s time for a district that works for every resident.”
Cherfilus-McCormick, 39, who eked out a victory over Dale Holness in November’s Democratic primary—a race decided by five votes—handily defeated Republican Jason Mariner and a handful of other candidates Tuesday, winning more than 78% of the vote.
Mariner, a recovering drug addict and ex-felon who has praised the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters and disputed the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 election victory, won more than 19 percent of the vote in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. The area includes Tamarac and is one of just two majority African-American congressional districts in Florida.
According to the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network, Cherfilus-McCormick’s swearing-in will make her the first Democrat of Haitian descent to serve in the U.S. Congress.
The centerpiece of Cherfilus-McCormick’s campaign was her universal basic income plan to give a monthly $1,000 federal payment to every American over 18, making less than $75,000 a year. Such a plan is unlikely to become law in a divided Congress.
She ran for the seat twice prior, unsuccessfully challenging the popular Hastings. He died in April 2021, two years after announcing he had pancreatic cancer.
Cherfilus-McCormick is the CEO of Trinity Health Care Services, based in Miramar. According to her December financial disclosure, she reported earnings of $6.4 million in 2021.
To defeat Holness and later Mariner, she loaned her campaign roughly $6 million, using a months-long advertising blitz showcasing her support for the $1,000 monthly payments.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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