Democrats are in the unenviable position of attempting to replace retiring US Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th District.
Unenviable because the seat Murphy flipped in 2016 — encompassing Seminole and part of Orange counties — has been redistricted into what Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a leading prognosticator of federal races, now describes as a “safe Republican” seat. Boundaries were moved north, into Volusia County, giving the winner of eight GOP candidates a much stronger chance of winning in November.
Unenviable also because the four Democrats who are on the primary ballot have collectively raised less money than each of those eight Republicans.
But the Democrats see an opening with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, growing empirical evidence of climate change and backlash against a GOP that has continued to claim former President Donald Trump as its leader despite the revelations of the Jan. 6 committee.
Here’s a closer look at the four.
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Hilsia ‘Tatiana’ Fernandez
Fernandez, 51, is originally from Puerto Rico and has lived in Florida for 17 years.
She is the owner and president of Pantera Technical Services Corp., a business that provides support for compressed air, medical air and medical vacuum devices.
Fernandez says she wants to be a voice for local citizens and small businesses. She prioritizes improving teacher pay as a way to ensure quality education, supporting vocational trade schools, “health care when you most need it,” housing affordability and jobs. She has been an autism advocate and volunteered in schools, including supporting high school robotics and job training.
She didn’t return calls seeking comment, but spoke at a recent debate hosted by the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County.
There she called abortion a human right.
“Why are we going back in time and reducing women’s rights, power and freedom? It’s beyond me,” Fernandez said. “We need to keep our bodily autonomy between each person and their doctor.”
She called human-caused global warming “a scientific fact.”
“We will also need clear federal legislation to reduce carbon emissions, not only as an agency goal but as a US government goal,” Fernandez said.
Her campaign had raised $17,000, according to her latest Federal Election Commission report.
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Green is a 56-year-old resident of Apopka who calls herself the “frontrunner” in the race.
What gives her hope is that the 7th was said to be a Republican district until 2016, when Murphy upset John Mica.
“The fact that this district chose then an immigrant, a woman for that district who had not had any political experience … I believe it is still doable,” Green said in an interview.
She said the voters in the 7th are “practical, down-to-earth, environmentally aware people” who will vote on issues including a woman’s right to choose, protecting against climate change and the rising cost of rent.
Born in Jamaica, Green moved to the United States in 1990.
Green was owner and president of Bluefield Consultants LLC, a political consulting firm, until she dissolved the company to avoid any conflicts of interest as a candidate.
She is a vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party and was Caribbean coalition director for the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
She was born a Seventh-day Adventist. She felt called to serve, but her church de ella did not allow women to become ministers, so she became involved in a non-denominational Christian church.
“A lot of times people tend to believe Democrats are not faith-based, that we don’t believe in the teachings of Christ and the love of God. It’s such an illusion,” she said. “The thought that we don’t know how to pray… I want to be that person to bring that to us.”
She said Jan. 6, 2021, “was a very scary time” for democracy, and she was equally horrified at hearing Republican 7th District congressional candidates repeatedly say they believe Biden is an illegitimate president.
Electing such candidates will result in an erosion of civil rights and women’s rights, as well as entitlements Americans enjoy, she said.
“The first thing they’re looking at reversing is the Affordable Care Act and Medicare.”
She lists as her top priorities education, women’s health, immigrant rights, universal health care and combating climate change.
Green has self-funded more than half of the nearly $26,000 her campaign has raised. That’s the most of the four Democrats.
Green, who has claimed the titles of reverend and doctor, has faced an attack by an opponent challenging her credentials.
Al Krulick said Green’s titles are “based entirely on a dubious honorary doctorate which she purchased from an unaccredited diploma mill in 2014.” Green claims an honorary doctorate in religion, philosophy and humanities from the International University of Canada, which was founded in Houston in 2012, and has addresses in Queens and Long Island, New York, and is unaccredited by the US Department of Education.
“Unfortunately, Ms. Green has disqualified herself,” Krulick said. “Ella She’s not a viable candidate.”
Green has pushed back, claiming the title “is conferred by faith and was given to me at my ordination,” as an honorary title in Black congregations. She said she had previously met with Krulick and agreed not to attack one another.
“Primaries can be dirty but I don’t want to be part of that,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that we would choose at this time to go at each other in any way.”
Green said she is “proud to have earned multiple honorary degrees — including a doctorate — for my decades of humanitarian service around the world and right here in Central Florida.”
Krulick, 70, of Maitland, is a retired editor, writer and entertainer who’s made three other runs at Congress in 1996, 1998 and 2014.
On his website, he described his career: “By my mid-30s, I had already performed extensively throughout the US and Canada and also toured in Europe and Australia. For 20 years, I made my living as an actor, writer, director, producer and entertainer. I did films, TV commercials, industrials, trade shows, conventions, children’s parties, the legitimate stage and, of course, the streets. I was even a department store Santa Claus for many holiday seasons; that was a great gig .”
He became involved in Democratic politics while living in Massachusetts in the 1980s and moved in 1992 to Orlando, where he worked as a performer at Disney World.
He says his priorities are abortion rights, campaign finance reform, climate change mitigation, gun control and affordable health care for all.
He said in an interview the leading Republican candidates have appealed to the fears of former President Donald Trump’s base.
“It’s the same old trope we’ve had in this country for 20 years. The Blacks and Mexicans are going to take your jobs,” Krulick said. “It’s the same old KKK mentality, the dark side of the American psyche that just keeps recycling until Trump tore the Band-Aid off … and it all comes gushing out like a backed-up toilet.”
During the Tiger Bay event, Krulick argued the planet is facing an existential threat, global warming, while democracy in the United States faces another.
“The greatest existential threat to our country is the modern Republican Party, which has returned into an authoritarian cult devoted not to the Constitution, but rather to the deranged, narcissistic and sociopathic former president and his Big Lie,” he said.
He contends the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade “committed perjury” when they testified during their confirmation hearings that the matter was “settled law.”
Krulick has raised about $12,000.
Pastrana, 36, lives in Orlando and is married to a child.
He works in information security after earning a bachelor’s degree in information technology from Capella University and carries several certifications, including CISSP. He was born in Ohio, is of Puerto Rican descent and has lived in Florida since he was in second grade.
He’s long been interested in politics, but felt a greater urgency to get involved when two big events collided.
“My daughter was born in May 2020, during COVID, and so I figure if not now, when?” he said in an interview. “I figure I might as well give it a shot.”
With the overturning of Roe and implications that other rights, such as gay marriage, could be rolled back, Pastrana said he believes the electorate will be motivated to keep the 7th District Democratic.
“My outlook on it right now is people are fed up with the overturning of Roe,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people during this whole (election), independents and Republicans, and a lot of people say they can’t vote for me in the primary, but if I get through to the general, they will. People are scared.”
He considers himself a progressive Democrat and supports wiping away all student loan debt and making college free; expanding the Supreme Court and impeaching sitting justices for ethics violations and “lying to the American people.”
Pastrana said legalizing marijuana federally can generate revenue to offset the elimination of student loans. He also advocates stricter auditing of the Pentagon and federal agencies that make spending decisions based upon the “use it or lose it” mantra.
I have noted that most of the Republican contenders for the seat have said they believe Trump was cheated in the 2020 election and that Biden is an illegitimate president.
“You have to be able to accept that one party will lose an election and one party will win,” Pastrana said. “If you can’t, you’re not talking about a democracy anymore.”
He has not filed an FEC report detailing his fundraising.
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