U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar), doesn’t know Barack Obama personally. He has, however, known the Clintons for years. He fought with the Clintons through possible impeachments and stood with them through a time of economic prosperity.
It was no wonder, then, that Hastings chose to side with Hillary Clinton over the upstart Obama when the two announced their campaigns for the White House.
But while Hastings and U.S. Reps Kendrick Meek and Corrine Brown sided with Clinton, their majority black and minority districts were largely for Obama. Convenience stores in
Hastings’ district are stocked with what look like unsanctioned “Yes We Can” T-shirts and hats.
Now that Obama has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, Hastings, Meek and Brown have pledged their support for him.
“If you look back to the very beginning of all of this, I said that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would make an excellent nominee. I haven’t seen any backlash for my support of Clinton,” Hastings said.
West Palm Beach resident Terrance Barnett is an Obama supporter in Hastings’ District 23.
“I think he chose politics over a paradigm shift. He didn’t see that there was something happening bigger than political history or loyalty,” Barnett said.
U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler has received more of a backlash than any of the three black congressional representatives for his support of Obama. His largely older Jewish constituency has called him a “rat” for not supporting Clinton. Black constituencies have not lashed out in that way.
Wexler said he saw that something was different about the freshman senator.
Kirk Wagar, Obama's finance chairman in Florida said Wexler has taken heat, but has been aggressive in his effort to persuade his district.
Some constituents see the trio’s choice to back Clinton as a sign of poor decision-making.
“It makes me think that when this major decision came up they all went for the easy way. They tried to predict a winner based on what everyone else was saying instead of seeing what the people wanted,” said Carletta Lawrence, an elementary school teacher who lives and works in Meek’s District 17.
In a joint statement, the three said they would do everything in their power to elect Obama. Hastings was more specific.
“I plan to work harder than I ever have for anyone else. This is a moment in history that compels me to do my utmost,” Hastings said. “That means raising money, going out and talking to people and lending my support and network to his efforts.”
Meek was unavailable for direct comment due to a death in his family. Brown did not return calls as of press time to detail her efforts to help Obama.
“I mean they’re politicians. I know they didn’t support him early but that didn’t concern me much. As long as they do all they can now,” said Shayla Bullard, a high school reading teacher in Broward County.
While Hastings plans on doing all he can, he has already had a disagreement with Obama on policy. Upon receiving the nomination, Obama declared that the Democratic National Committee would no longer receive money from Political Action Committees (PACs).
“I think he’s going to make it harder on himself to win in the general election. The Republicans are raising money hand over fist, as is their history. We need all the funds that we can get to win,” Hastings said.
“It’s like trying to win a fight by tying one hand behind your back.”
Hastings said his support of the presumptive Democratic nominee is not for political gain, but because he will need Obama’s help to serve a constituency in need of healthcare, jobs and better education.
“It’s time to get to work now. I haven’t had any backlash because my people know that no matter who is in that seat, I will work with them,” Hastings said.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings