Eleven Democrats and two Republicans are vying to replace the late Democrat Alcee L. Hastings in the 20th Congressional district, which encompasses Broward and Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Hastings, who served 15 terms in Congress from 1993 until his death this past April, was a leading pro-Israel voice in the House. He visited the country some 20 times over his congressional tenure and in 2007 helped lead an effort to grow a new forest in northern Galilee that was destroyed the previous year by Hezbollah. A staunch critic of BDS, he once described the movement as “a deeply flawed approach to advancing peace.” In 2015, he voted against the Iran nuclear deal.
And, although he opposed “the manner in which” former President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Representative Hastings minced no words about his convictions. “I believe,” he said, “that Jerusalem is and should remain the undivided capital of Israel. To deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem would be to deny world history.”
Mr. Hastings is also widely remembered for his determination to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and for promoting ties between the black and Jewish communities.
November 2 is the date of the primary election to determine the candidates running to be his successor. The current GOP nominees are advertising executive Jason Mariner and welding inspector Greg Musselwhite, who lost to Mr. Hastings in 2020.
But, as the district is heavily Democratic, the candidate of that party is almost certainly assured of winning in the special general election on January 11. Whether that successor will follow in Mr. Hastings’ footsteps regarding Israel, though, is not assured.
Almost all of the 11 Democrats on the ballot favor American aid to Israel. The exception is first-term State Representative Omari Hardy, who has described himself as a “Troublemaker Extraordinaire” and has made clear that his views on Israel align with the “very progressive” wing of his party. Like others who have held high the “progressive” banner in recent years, Mr. Hardy, 31, has proved skilled at amassing followers on social media.
In a recent interview with the news organization Jewish Insider, Mr. Hardy said that he would have opposed the recent legislation to grant $1 billion in supplemental aid for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system to replenish the Iron Dome missile-defense system after the most recent attack by Hamas. The bill, which is currently stalled in the Senate, was overwhelmingly approved in a bi-partisan House vote. Only eight Democrats and one Republican voted against the measure.
Mr. Hardy contends that even maintaining the Obama-era 10-year memorandum of understanding between Israel and the U.S. should be made contingent on Israel’s cessation of what the Congressional hopeful characterizes as the violation of Palestinian human rights.
Mr. Hardy has been endorsed by the editorial board of South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, which praised him as “an unapologetic progressive who’s unafraid to challenge deeply entrenched powerful interests.”
Although no single front-runner in the 20th district primary election has yet emerged, strong contenders include State Senator Perry Thurston, State Representative Bobby DuBose and Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief.
Ms. Sharief is an interesting candidate, and a good example of why a candidate’s ethnic or religious identity should not determine an American voter’s choice. Ms. Sharief, who is black and Muslim, is a nurse practitioner who founded a pediatric home health care company. While she describes herself as a “fiscal moderate and a social progressive,” she is strongly and vocally pro-Israel, a position she calls simple “common sense.”
She traveled through Israel two years ago on an AIPAC-sponsored African-American leadership tour and says that “When I finished my nine days there, what I realized was that Israel was under constant attack. That was one of the reasons why I came back and said, ‘I support the aid to Israel continuously.’”
Ms. Sharief’s campaign website includes an issues section declaring her “support for Israel,” and supports the maintenance of U.S. military assistance for Israel, including supplementary allocations like the Iron Dome one currently before the Senate.
Without such aid, “the Middle East will become destabilized very quickly,” Ms. Sharief said. “That represents a threat for America, and I don’t think people get that.”
She also wants, she says, “to continue to educate our African-American community about the importance of that relationship.”
“Whoever emerges or whoever wins,” said Democratic Broward County state legislator Shevrin Jones, who is not endorsing anyone in the race, “it’s my hope that their view on the U.S.-Israel relationship is consistent with Congressman Hastings’.”
It is our hope too.