On the same day he voted to take insurance away from the poor, the sick, and the elderly, Dennis Ross celebrated the National Day of Prayer.
Guest post by Ajay Malshe
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch this month to consider his nomination by President Trump to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a process that Senate Republicans have deliberately obstructed for a year, Judge Gorsuch moves to fill the vacant seat of Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away in February of 2016. Judge Gorsuch brings to the table a range impressive credentials which, despite his heavily conservative leanings, would entitle him to serious and fair consideration from Senate Democrats under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, we are not living within a time of normal circumstances. Simply put, Neil Gorsuch is entitled to the same consideration that Senate Republicans gave to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, Jr. in 2016.
Judge Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court in February of 2016. Judge Garland came with impeccable credentials qualifying him for the job. The grandson of refugees who fled persecution and anti-semitism in Russia, Judge Garland grew up in a middle class home to a mother who served as a community volunteer and a father who owned and operated a small business. Judge Garland graduated from his high school as class valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar and eventually went on to graduate from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School with honors in each case. After clerking for Judge Henry Friendly of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, he then went on to a distinguished career in public service. He is most famous for his role as the chief prosecutor of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the white nationalists behind the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the worst act of domestic terrorism in United States history.
When President Obama nominated Judge Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, the nonpartisan American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which routinely reviews the professional qualifications of nominees for judicial positions in the federal court system gave Judge Garland their highest possible rating, noting his “exceptional intellect, industry and superior work ethic” as well as his “reputation for being one of the hardest working and best prepared judges on the D.C. Circuit”. Republicans had also previously gone out of their way to praise Judge Garland as a “brilliant jurist” and “a man of character and integrity” when he had previously been nominated to serve as a federal judge. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch referred to Judge Garland as "not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from [the Clinton] administration." Current Senate Republicans John McCain, Susan Collins, Pat Roberts, James Inhofe, Dan Coats and Thad Cochran also voted to confirm Garland in 1997 to his current position on the Court of Appeals of the DC Circuit. Yet when presented with Judge Garland’s nomination in 2016, Senate Republicans stonewalled Judge Garland, refusing to grant him a confirmation hearing despite his obvious qualifications for the job. Some Senators, such as Republican Senator Mike Lee, refused to even grant Judge Garland so much as even the basic courtesy of a meeting. Senator Lee commented that “any meeting with any nominee put forward by President Obama would only be a waste of the Senate’s time”.
Even though Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution clearly mandates that the President of the United States “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint...judges of the Supreme Court”, Senate Republicans had no interest in doing the job they were required by the Constitution to do and failed to consider Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Instead they were content to simply let his nomination expire, inventing an absurd principle that Supreme Court nominations should not be considered during the final year of a President’s term in office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recalled a conversation with President Obama in which he claimed to have looked the President in the eye and said that he would not fill this Supreme Court vacancy as “one of my proudest moments.”
The manner in which Senate Republicans treated Judge Garland should make you angry. Republican obstructionism was a hallmark of President Obama’s tenure in office and something that we have grown accustomed to over the past eight years, but this was unprecedented, unseemly and flagrantly un-American. Make no mistake, the Senate Republicans stole this nomination from President Obama and Judge Garland. President Trump, who nominated Garland’s replacement, has demonstrated time and time again that he has no respect for the judicial branch of government, and that he lacks even a cursory understanding of how our Constitution and government work. Democrats must stand united in their opposition of Judge Gorsuch or any other nominee put forth by President Trump until the Senate gives Judge Garland the full and fair consideration for the Supreme Court that Republicans wrongfully denied him.
Look, the math does not support Democrats on this nomination or on any future nomination while the Republicans control the Senate. The support of at least sixty Senators has traditionally been required to confirm a president’s nomination to the Supreme Court, but Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he is willing to exercise the so-called “nuclear option”. The nuclear option would remove the filibuster and prevent the opposition from stopping a Supreme Court nomination by allowing nominations to the confirmed by a simple majority. We cannot let this dissuade us. Our voices must be loud and clear. There is no room for compromise or deference in a Trump administration that appears to have been totally compromised by white nationalists, anti-semitism and foreign agents. If Republicans want to remove the filibuster to force Judge Gorsuch down our throats, so be it. Such carelessness on their part will only hurt their party in the future when they ultimately lose control of Congress and the Presidency. For now, Senate Democrats have to be a voice for the majority of Americans who did not want Donald Trump to become President. They must be constant reminder to Republicans that we will not cower to their abusive behavior, that our opposition is organized and united, and that despite this temporary setback, we will ultimately prevail at the polls in elections to come.
This can work. If you want proof, look no further than the effect that Americans have had in rising up together in support of the Affordable Care Act over the past few months. Republicans have been bellyaching to repeal the Affordable Care Act for years, and were more than happy to pass bills to repeal the law 54 times while President Obama was in office (knowing he would always veto the bill and they’d never have to face the consequences for it). Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, they could have easily repealed the law if they wished. But it quickly became clear that they had emerged from six years of obstruction with no healthcare plan at all. Angry progressive turnout at town halls has reinforced their hesitance to act.
The Judicial branch has, since the dawn of our republic, been a vital and important check on executive power in both Republican and Democratic administrations. It was the Supreme Court who curbed gross overreach by the George W. Bush administration in finding that the military commissions they had established to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay were in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Article Three of the Geneva Convention. And it was federal district and circuit court judges across the country who put a halt to the disastrously cruel and incompetently-written Executive Order on Immigration issued by the Trump administration. Republicans in Congress on the other hand have so far shown no willingness to stand up to President Trump and be an effective check on his power. Representative Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, would rather investigate leaks to journalists or even a cartoon character than investigate the connections between Russian intelligence agents and the Trump campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan, despite at one point referring to President Trump as a racist, is more than happy to accede to the Trump agenda as long as the wealthy benefactors bankrolling his political career can still get their tax cuts. Now more than ever, a strong, independent judiciary is absolute crucial to the survival of our American democracy.
The Republicans shattered bedrock principles of how our government is supposed to function with their behavior over the past year. If Senate Democrats in response were to treat Judge Gorsuch like they would any other Supreme Court nominee, it would only serve to normalize the shameless and offensive obstructionism that Senate Republicans showed with Judge Garland’s nomination. Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings begin in less than a month and as the future of the Democratic Party in Hillsborough County, we have to be proactive and make our voices heard. That means contacting Senator Bill Nelson, and yes even Senator Marco Rubio (when he isn’t hiding from his constituents by taking taxpayer-funded trips to Europe) to voice our concerns and opinions. Our Senators have to know that their constituents are paying attention and that we will not back down from abusive Republican behavior. Below is the contact information for each Senator’s Tampa office. Always remember that Senators work on your behalf and are obligated to hear you out. Write them, call them, or even make an appointment to speak with a staffer at their Tampa office, but please always interact with them in a respectful manner. A vigilant and educated constituency is a spineless politician’s worst nightmare.
Tampa Office for Senator Bill Nelson
801 N. Florida Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602
Tampa Office for Senator Marco Rubio
5201 West Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33609
[Editor's note: this office has been closed. You can reach Senator Rubio in Washington D.C. at 202-224-3041]
In closing, I urge you to please watch this video of Senator McConnell gleefully telling a crowd of supporters just how proud he was to railroad Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court just so he could stick it to President Obama. I don’t want Senator McConnell to have the last laugh in this stolen nomination and neither should you. Let us stand together and help give Senate Democrats the courage they need to take this principled stand against Neil Gorsuch. They may not prevail in the short term, but history will never forget their bravery in standing up for our Constitution, for Judge Garland, and for those principles of democracy, fairness and fundamental decency that we hold so dear.
The Hillsborough County Young Democrats have adopted a mass transit resolution that calls on the County Commission to put greater emphasis on mass transit, suggesting that the Go Hillsborough plan takes more of a “Roads First” approach. In the resolution, adopted by its E-board and officers at the end of last month, the HCYDs expresses concern that Hillsborough County’s transportation future will be gridlocked if Go Hillsborough passes in its current form. The document states, “We are already decades behind, fighting congestion and gridlock, losing our quality of life, and failing to attract and grow higher paying jobs because of our lack of investment in mass transit and continuing investment in the sprawl machine.”
The resolution comes at an opportune time, as later this month, the Commission will release plans for Go Hillsborough. The resolution suggests adopting user fees as well as a five-cent local gas tax, something that has been done in 29 other counties around the state.
Maya Brown, President of the Hillsborough County Young Democrats, held a press conference on January 19th to discuss the plan and the resolution. You can read more about the press conference here.
You can read the complete resolution here.
By Dr. Bill Myers, Director of Public Policy
On Tuesday October 13th, the Democratic Party held its first presidential debate. The media conversation quickly turned to an analysis of debate performance with the goal of answering the big question: Who won?
CNN asked a group of undecided voters in Nevada who won and their answer was Bernie Sanders. Fox News asked Florida Democrats and again the answer was Bernie Sanders. Fusion asked millennial voters in Miami and Sanders again triumphed. Slate’s online poll registered a clear win for Sanders as well logging an impressive 66% of the vote.
It would appear then that Bernie Sanders scored an improbable victory over the presumed frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and yet media across the country anointed Clinton, not Sanders, with the debate crown. That narrative has come under question, however, because of the apparent disconnect between the people watching the debate and the journalists covering Tuesday night’s event. However, an NBC/Survey Monkey poll, conducted in the days after the debate, asked Democratic voters who did the best job during the debate and the results were much different than the others: 56% - Hillary Clinton, 33% - Bernie Sanders.
Now that the national media has had its say, it’s important to hear how the candidates and the debate were received locally. The Hillsborough County Young Democrats (HCYD) sponsored a Democratic presidential debate watch party at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Tampa as part of an effort to engage 18-40 year olds in a conversation about the direction of our region, state and country. As part of that effort, Dr. William Myers, the Director of Public Policy for the HCYDs, asked debate watchers to share their views via a snap poll. 
Similar, to the focus groups empaneled by CNN, Fox News and Fusion, the HCYD Snap Poll identified Bernie Sanders as the debate’s winner with 54%, Hillary Clinton with 43% and Martin O’Malley with 3%. However, the HCYD Snap Poll also revealed an important impact of the debate on support for both Sanders and Clinton. Prior to the debate, Sanders had more support than Clinton by a 2 to 1 margin among HCYD debate watchers. After the debate, Sanders support dropped, Clinton’s increased as did support for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. According to those who participated in the HCYD Snap Poll, Sanders may have won the debate, but Hillary Clinton’s performance garnered her more support.
It will be important for each of the candidates going forward to both build and maintain their number of supporters. If the HCYD Snap Poll is any indication, both Sanders and Clinton, will be facing similar challenges.
Which candidate won tonight’s debate?
Prior to tonight’s debate, which candidate did you support the most?
After tonight’s debate, which candidate do you support the most?
Ed Narain is a bright political thought leader and change agent in the region helping to shape the political landscape. He currently serves as a member of the Florida House of Representatives representing the 61st district. The district includes parts of West and East Tampa, Progress Village, Sulpher Springs and the University Area. Narain attended the University of South Florida where he was elected the Student Body President and later pursued his B.A in psychology and MBA at St Leo University. In 2013 he received his J.D from Stetson University College of Law and works as a Regional Director at AT&T and serves as a member of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Rep. Narain served on various boards in the county including the Headstart Policy Council and the Community Action Board. As a freshman representative, Rep. Narain was elected to lead the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and has received a Florida Chamber Distinguished Advocate Award and a Florida Association of Counties Champions Award for the 2015 session. Representative Ed Narain is a major contributing voice in shaping this regions political environment.
HC Young Dems : Prior to your campaign for State Representative you ran successfully for Student Body President at USF, was there any lessons learned at this level that perhaps carried over to your more recent campaign?
Rep, Ed Narain : Yes, it always comes back to helping people connect in a positive way with government. Back then, I didn’t run for the title of being Student Body President but rather we ran to help provide a greater voice for the student body with the administration. Last year, our campaign was about providing a greater voice for the Tampa community in the Legislature. It should always be about putting the needs of People before Politics.
HC Young Dems :Representative Narain, run us through the step by step process you took in making the decision to run for the Florida House? What ultimately was the deciding factor for you?
Rep, Ed Narain: For years, a lot of my friends, co-workers and family members told me I should consider running for office. I was always a little uncomfortable with that because I didn’t and still don’t see what they see. But after seriously thinking about it, I first talked with my wife and asked her thoughts about me running. As with everything I’ve wanted to do, she told me she would be supportive and has really been my biggest champion. We prayed about it and asked God for clarity. Finally, after talking with my parents, friends, family, employer and pastor – I made the decision to enter the race. The deciding factor was whether I would be able to take care of my family while serving on a different, more demanding level than before.
HC Young Dems: how was your first legislative session? Was it what you imagined before you were an elected official? What was the biggest learning curve and adjustment you had to make?
Rep, Ed Narain: My first session was very good. As with anything, there was an adjustment period but it didn’t take long to figure out how things work. I went in with very few expectations (in order to prevent being disappointed) and have been pleased with how most things have turned out. Contrary to what people may read, most legislators get along fine and although we may differ on policy; are all trying to do what we believe is the right thing.
The biggest adjustment has been being away from family for so long. Public service is really hard on your spouse and children and in my case, things haven’t been any different.
HC Young Dems: What advice would you offer to our readers that aspire to run for office? What do you feel is the best way to prepare to put yourself in a position to make that decision?
Rep, Ed Narain: Public service is a sacrifice but it is very rewarding. I would advise anyone who is thinking about running for office to ensure they are doing it for the right reasons. Sometimes people see the superficial aspect of being an elected official (i.e. giving speeches and attending events) and aspire to that. What they don’t see is the tremendous amount of work and personal sacrifice that goes into actually being successful at the job. This year, I missed the family vacation because of the special session. That was a tough thing for my family, but I had little choice. The reality is elected officials make these type of sacrifices all the time and few people know, understand or even care.
The best way to prepare for that decision is to develop yourself by learning how to be a servant. Too many people want to run for office without having truly served others. Volunteering and doing it from a position of selflessness helps you gain perspective and insight into the true needs of people and how you can best serve them. Eventually, people will seek you out and encourage you to run for something. It should always be about helping others.
HC Young Dems: Not only do you have your life in public service and your professional life, but you are a father and husband, how do you find that balance between those roles?
Rep, Ed Narain: I do my best to keep the needs of my family first. Without family, you don’t have anything so keeping them happy is a priority. I do my best to include them in everything I can. I also try to make every important family function. It’s tough. I’m only an elected official for a time but I am a husband and father for life.
HC Young Dems: In your career in politics so far what has been the greatest lesson learned for you? And what else would you like to leave our readers with?
Rep, Ed Narain: The greatest lesson is that if you are genuine in your beliefs and are doing things for the right reasons, people know it and can see it. Being true to yourself and your values is important regardless of any pressures you may face. Being unpopular for making tough decisions isn’t always rewarded early on but if you are doing the right things, it will always pay off.
HC Young Dems: Thank you so much for your time it is greatly appreciated.
You can follow Ed Narain on Twitter @ednarain
Please continue to follow us on our #LeadHillsborough Conversation Series our next meeting will be August 18th at 6:30 pm at CoWork YBor,
Lorena Hardwick: is a young influencer in the region helping to shape the political landscape for the past decade. Lorena is a Florida State Alumna and has held key roles in non-profit management, community relations and governmental affairs. She is the current Legislative Aide to At Large Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, District 1 and board member of the Tampa Bay Region New Leaders Council. This past election cycle she was the West Central Florida Regional Political Director for the Charlie Crist for Governor Campaign. Previously she served as the Hispanic Outreach Liaison for then Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations. Lorena is young thought leader in the region and a major contributing voice to the Tampa Bay narrative.
HC Young Dems: You are deeply committed and involved in our region, how did you find yourself in Tampa Bay?
Lorena Hardwick: The cliff notes version. When I was six my mom relocated us to New Jersey where my grandparents lived. Due to work and other situations she returned to Venezuela and at that time my grandparents were moving to the Bronx, so I made the move with them. At 13, grandpa came to Tampa to visit a family member and decided we should leave the New York winters behind, and the fact that the crime rate was becoming an issue in our neighborhood he thought Tampa would be a better environment for my teen years. Twenty plus years later, Tampa is still home.
HC Young Dems: You are very active in shaping the political landscape in our community, run us through when you first received the political bug?
Lorena Hardwick: One would think that attending college in our state’s capital would have had an influence, but it did not. I was not political, AT ALL. I had my views and opinions but never thought of politics or government as something I would pursue. I did, however, enjoy public service. In college my first internship was with the March of Dimes and I fell in love with non-profit work. I subsequently spent my summers working for the Boys & Girls Clubs here in Tampa and then eventually found my way to United Way of Tampa (now United Way of Suncoast), I managed their volunteer program Hands on Tampa (HOT) for four years. I enjoyed the work as it helped agencies on the most basic level. Through managing this program and volunteering myself I learned a lot about Tampa, its needs and the amazing work that was being done in our communities. It was wonderful meeting the people that were directly impacted by these non-profits and it was amazing to meet the local community leaders that made a difference each day. As I was transitioning out the job, while at my last volunteer event with HOT, I met Santiago Corrada (now CEO of Visit Tampa Bay), he was Mayor Iorio’s Neighborhood Services Administrator at the time. They were looking for a bilingual person to work in the neighborhoods office to help push out communications in Spanish and also be a neighborhood liaison for the City. I had never considered government service, so I was a little nervous but went to the interview and took a leap into the unknown. It was a great decision. I am forever grateful that he took an interest in speaking with me and introducing me to government. Years later, I realize how closely related non-profit work relates to government and politics. The issues are different but in the end both fields are about advocacy, education and serving the greater good.
HC Young Dems: Was politics, policy and public administration something you always saw yourself doing?
Lorena Hardwick: As answer above indicates, that would be, no. Do I think everyone should get a little taste of government/policy, YES! Whether it’s a class, or volunteering on a campaign, interning in a governmental office, or just picking an issue you’re passionate about, read about it, follow it and become engaged in the conversation. Through my current work I have the opportunity to attend many meetings and discussions about issues that impact Tampa. In addition, in the last two years, I was involved in the Crist gubernatorial campaign and was fortunate enough to participate in the inaugural class of the New Leaders Council Tampa Bay, for which I am a Board member today. These two experiences coupled with my everyday work have afforded me unique views into local and state policy issues. Although this is not what I envisioned in college I am so elated to be where I am today.
HC Young Dems: What advice would you offer to someone new in the region that would like to get involved in the political community, what steps should they take?
Lorena Hardwick: My advice would be to find out what neighborhood you live in and if it has an association, join it and go to the meetings. You meet your neighbors and you learn about what issues are the hot topics in the neighborhood or surrounding areas. Neighborhood associations are evolving, they are social places where you can get engaged in local politics in a less stressful and intimidating way since elected and public officials come to you. If you are already civically minded and want to jump right in then look at your city’s and county’s website for their Boards/Council/Commissions. This is a great way to put your particular expertise into good use and you get an immediate taste for local government.
HC Young Dems: What is a policy issue in the region of particular significance in the region? And why do you feel it is important?
Lorena Hardwick: Transit. Are you surprised? Without getting g political about it, I think we can all agree that our city and region cannot grow and attract new businesses and expand the number of jobs being offered if it does not have a reliable transit system. It does not matter what it looks like, buses, light rail or a combination of both, we need to improve on what we have. Check this out from the Chamber Transportation Survey Results:
“The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce completed a survey of more than 2,500 people on transportation issues, and found that respondents seek an improved transportation system with more services and better technologies.
More than 92-percent of respondents said they drove their car alone as their primary mode of transportation. But, 65-percent of respondents said they would take advantage of improved transit at their home or work, and 75-percent thought that traffic congestion was a significant factor for them. The majority of respondents said it took them more than 30 minutes to get to work or school.” By Michael Maurino, Government Relations Coordinator, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
We have been talking about transit for over 35 years in this region, something has to give. This is the type of issue that will only improve by changing the landscape of those making the decisions. This is where you realize that the people controlling the conversation are elected officials that are not bold enough to make policy decisions that change how we look at transit and what we do to help fund it. This is where you go out and find the people that have the knowledge and will to help change that landscape. This is where you choose to sit on the sidelines and listen to the same tired arguments over and over again or you step up and participate in the process.
HC Young Dems: What is one of the most valuable lessons you have learned in your career? And is there anything additional that you would like to add?
Lorena Hardwick: You should never stand on the sidelines. If you are in a meeting, speak up if you have something valuable to say, don’t wait for someone else to say it. Ask questions, and if you think something needs change then find a way to change it. In politics, too many people complain about the lack of leadership or complain about our bench and how we don’t have one. Then do something about it. Run for office, or help someone on their campaign. Don’t be shy about inserting yourself into an important discussion. We don’t have to all be political fundraisers, you may have relationships or specific expertise/ advice that could be very valuable to the candidate you want to support. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, learn from them, engage them, and be bold, or stand behind someone that wants to take the lead and be the force that helps them achieve their goals and in doing so, you will achieve some goals yourself.
HC Young Dems: Thank you so much for your time and your commitment to the area it been a pleasure speaking with you!
Please continue to follow us on our #LeadHillsborough campaign our next meeting is Tuesday July 21st at 6:30 pm at CoWork YBor our guest speakers will be Florida State Representatives Janet Cruz and Ed Narain.
In an effort to gather thought leaders and influencers working on innovative initiatives that will be shaping our region we will be launching an intimate conversation series. Over the coming months we will feature a number of local leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs, and activists as speakers on important issues facing Hillsborough County today. These Conversation Series Events will coincide with the Hillsborough County Young Democrats monthly meetings. To kick off the conversation series we are happy to welcome Kevin Thurman, Executive Director of Connect Tampa Bay, a local non-profit organization dedicated to improving transit across the Tampa Bay Area. Kevin will talk about the importance of building modern transit that keeps our community vibrant, growing, and accessible to all. We invite you to attend.
What: Hillsborough Young Democrats Monthly Meeting / Lead Hillsborough Conversation Series #1
Where: CoWork Ybor 1903 East 7th Ave., Tampa, FL, 33605
When: Tuesday, May 19th, at 6:30 PM
RSVP on Facebook here
- Chairman of the Tampa City Council Mr. Frank Reddick
- President of the Alliance For Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation Mr. Al Fox
- Former U.S Air Force Officer Mr Evelio Otero
- Florida State Representative Ed Narain
- President of Florida Next Foundation Mr. Ned Pope
- Executive Director of The Tampa Bay Technology Forum Mr. Daniel James Scott
- Executive Director of Connect Tampa Bay Mr. Kevin Thurman