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Frederica Wilson Should Be Able to Hang Her Hat in Washington Till 2016

July 6, 2014 - 6:00pm

Frederica Wilson may turn 72 the day after Election Day, but the Democratic congresswoman shows no signs of slowing down and should easily win a third term come November.

Wilson represents one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the nation. Despite her position as a backbencher in the minority party, Wilson has surprisingly carved out a niche for herself in Washington. Part of that stems from her colorful personality and her seemingly endless array of hats. But part of that comes from being a canny legislator who has been able to keep an eye on the district while dabbling in national and international affairs. Nobody in Congress, for example, has been more outfront in condemning terrorist group Boko Haram for kidnapping girls in Nigeria. Despite her age, Wilson has been savvy when it comes to social media, even leading the Twitter campaign against Boko Haram.

Though she is one of the most established Democratic incumbents in South Florida, Wilson faces a major primary opponent in Michael Etienne. She nevertheless starts off with a commanding lead and Etienne, despite some impressive credentials, has done little in the 13 months hes been in the race.

Etienne, an attorney and a leader of the Haitian-American community, is known in Tallahassee for working as a legislative aide in the Florida House but has been trying to advance his career by running for office. He was part of a crowded field of Democrats in 2010 who ran for the House seat Yolly Roberson held; Etienne placed third. Since then, hes bounced back fairly well. In 2011, he won an election to be city clerk for North Miami.

Etienne hopes to rally Haitian-American voters to his banner, but it will be tough for him to prevail. Wilson has been stringing together electoral wins in South Florida for decades. She took 35 percent when she ran in the congressional primary in 2010 for the seat Kendrick Meek held -- an impressive figure considering there were eight other Democrats seeking the nomination. Rudy Moise, a businessman, attorney and doctor, placed a distant second with 16 percent. In 2012, Wilson did even better against Moise. In the rematch, when she had the endorsement of Barack Obama, Wilson took 66 percent against Moise's 34 percent.

Granted, Etienne is talented and ambitious with strong connections to the Haitian community. But by the end of June, he had not even raised $19,500, all of which came from his own wealth. Wilson had already spent almost $111,700 and had more than $167,500 in the bank by the end of March. That counts a good deal in South Florida.

Republican Dufirstson Neree, independent Luis Fernandez and a write-in candidate await the winner of the Democratic primary, but none of them remotely appears to be a threat to pick up the seat.

Even with Congresss approval in the tank, Wilson can be expected to win a third term. Etienne simply hasnt materialized as a threat in the primary. Wilson can hang her hats in Washington for at least another two years.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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