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Florida Congressional Democrats Back Biden, Here's Why

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a primary election night rally Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Los Angeles.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a primary election night rally Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Early voting is already underway in parts of Florida. The race for the Democratic nomination has changed drastically since voters in parts of the state began the process of selecting a candidate. A week ago, seven Democrats were running for their party’s presidential nomination.  Today, there are three: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden. And polls reflect a race for the lead between Sanders and Biden in Florida. Biden’s campaign collected a lot of high-profile endorsements in the Sunshine state this week.  Some of those endorsements included congressional lawmakers Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Frederica Wilson and Al Lawson. On the Florida Roundup, host Melissa Ross spoke to Congressman Lawson about his decision to back Biden. 

An excerpt of the conversation follows. The transcript is lightly edited for clarity.

Melissa Ross: So, you are endorsing Joe Biden for president. What drove that decision?

CONGRESSMAN AL LAWSON:  I think, you know, just judging under the Obama administration, V.P. Biden was a great advocate of equal rights for all. And especially affordable health care, which is really big, and putting hardworking Americans back to work.

I mean, it was a no-nonsense approach for me. And he did everything he possibly could in trying to bring some common sense to gun reform.

And what we've had in Florida has been tremendous. And so, as a result, he would just be more stable. And I was really glad that he was someone who tried to unite us in America, instead of divide us, like the current president. Someone who can work on both sides. You have Democrats and Republicans, and so you want someone who would not just ignore the Republicans, if you get in office, but be willing to work on both sides. And you make good legislation like that.

Ross: Now, a recent poll shows Joe Biden winning the Florida primary by double digits. That said, what's your message to supporters who will cast a primary ballot for Senator Bernie Sanders—who would like to see this race go on a more progressive direction?

LAWSON: Florida is really concerned about some of the things, especially in the South Florida area, that Bernie Sanders had to say about Fidel Castro. And some of the ways that he felt Castro was doing good, which really turned off a lot of Hispanic, Cuban Democrats and even some of the Republicans because of his position.

Also, his take with the Jewish community--which is a big voting bloc here and [Sanders] happens to be Jewish--in Florida you've of found that Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and many other Jewish congressional people also are going to Biden. I think [Sanders] made a great mistake in that. That’s one of the reasons that Florida, [Biden’s] done well. He’s doing well with African-Americans throughout the state, especially here in North Florida. As a result, it just doesn’t seem to be much of a pathway in Florida for Sanders.

Ross: The black unemployment rate is at historic lows. What's the economic argument for African-American voters in Florida to cast their ballot for Biden?

LAWSON: Well, I think that one of the things that happened is the unemployment situation started under the Obama administration. And so that is one of the reasons why we are seeing those results now, which is very good. And even the current president speaks about it and talks about it saying, ‘look what I have done,’ instead of saying, ‘this happened under the Obama administration, now I’m reaping the benefits.’ That's what really happened. It is something that they have been doing.

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