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While the presidential race remains the state’s marquee event, several significant down-ballot races involving Jewish Democrats are also attracting attention. In two legislative contests along Florida’s I-4 Corridor, Patricia Sigman and Tracey Kagan, both Jewish attorneys, are thought to have a good chance to flip their respective districts. If she wins in her Seminole County state senate race, Sigman could be instrumental in giving Democrats control of the state senate, where the party needs to pick up four seats. “Fundamental to my Jewish identity is the importance of stepping forward and standing up to fight for people who are being mistreated,” says Sigman. If elected and sent to Tallahassee, she said her priorities would be “access to affordable, quality healthcare, fully funded public education, clean water and environmental protection, fixing our cruel and gutted unemployment system, common sense gun violence prevention, and creating a criminal justice system that provides equal justice for all.”
The odds, experts say, appear to be in her favor. “I think she is doing well,” says Democratic strategist Dick Batchelor. “She has great credentials. She’s an accomplished labor lawyer. So we start out with a very qualified candidate. Seminole County, which was once a red Republican bastion, has been trending blue. She’s been able to raise $1.5 million dollars from various sources, which has enabled her to hire a full-time campaign director and two assistants. So, while her Republican opponent has raised twice what she has, she has all the money she needs to compete.”
In her campaign, Sigman has contrasted her support for Florida Medicaid expansion to her opponent’s vote against Medicaid expansion in the state house as well as his support for a failed unemployment compensation program, and his accepting money from opioid drugmakers. She may benefit from Biden’s coattails or, more likely, Batchelor says, from those of the popular U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy.
Politico reported earlier this week that Murphy “is investing $250,000 in Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in Seminole County, including digital and mail GOTV efforts. She called Seminole County–where there is a highly competitive state Senate race underway–‘an epic battleground for Florida’s future.’”
“It looks very good,” says Batchelor. “I think she’s going to win.”
Tracey Kagan, who lost her first legislative race in Seminole County two years ago by one percent of the vote, says in a telephone interview that “Judaism has led me to my career in politics…being a good Jew is being a good humanitarian; Judaism gives us a code of ethics to live by; one of the components of that ethic is inclusion; I feel it incumbent upon me to be part of the Democratic Party because we believe in actually caring for all members of society no matter what race, ethnicity, color or gender.”
The two women’s candidacies have been so effective that their GOP opponents have resorted to dark money, dirty tricks and dissembling, according to multiple investigations by the Orlando Sentinel, which has endorsed both Democrats.
Phantom operatives ran a fake candidate against Sigman in the Democratic primary. After Sigman won, in an attempt to split her vote, they are now running a bogus third party, faux progressive candidate, who is white but whose photograph on her brochures is of an unidentified black woman. Kagan, a former prosecutor and public defender, is being accused by her Republican opponents of being generically “on the criminals’ side” and “works for the worst of our society,” simply because she now is a defense attorney.
The two women are getting some late innings financial support from national Democratic groups like the super PAC Forward Majority, which according to Politico is spending $16 million in four Sun Belt swing states (on top of an earlier $16 million), including Florida, where the outcome could flip control of one of the legislative houses.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s agricultural commissioner, and the only statewide, Democratic elected official, has committed more than $100,000 from her personal Democratic campaign fund to legislative races as well, including those of Sigman and Kagen.
Unexpectedly, in Central Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which went comfortably for Trump in 2016, challenger Alan Cohn, a former television
broadcaster, is polling within three points of a first-term Republican incumbent, according to the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, raising the possibility of an upset if there is a “blue wave” in the state on November 3.
The Washington, DC-based PAC Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
has gotten involved in another U.S. House race, in the 1st Congressional District, that of incumbent Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of President Trump’s most dedicated and flamboyant supporters.
Aimed at swing voters in Gaetz’s Panhandle district, the purpose of the ad is to educate “voters about Gaetz’s history of promoting white nationalism and anti-Semitism,” according to Bend the Arc.