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Michael Hepburn, Who Had AOC's Support Last Election, Back for a Rematch With Donna Shalala

September 6, 2019 - 6:00am
Michael Hepburn and Donna Shalala
Michael Hepburn and Donna Shalala

Educator Michael Hepburn is gearing up for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., taking her on in the Democratic primary in an important South Florida congressional race. 

Hepburn ran in the crowded Democratic primary for the open seat last year but was left in the dust by Shalala who went on to flip the seat from the GOP in November. But Hepburn had reeled in the support of New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was fresh off her upset of then-U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, D-NY, in the primary. 

Ocasio-Cortez threw her support to Hepburn last August in the final days of the primary but it didn’t seem to help him much. Hepburn pulled 6 percent, placing fifth and well behind Shalala who took 32 percent. 

Nevertheless, Hepburn is trying again and he kicked off his campaign on Thursday. 

“Today, I am excited to announce my candidacy for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 27th Congressional District,” he announced. “I made this decision after much self-reflection, prayer, and months of dialogue with my inner-circle, and those I’m looking forward to earning the chance to represent in Congress. This district and these times deserve more than just a centrist approach, they demand a fighter and champion who exudes the fierce urgency of now.

“All I have ever known throughout my life is to make sure that I’m part of the solution not the problem. Advocating for those most in need was instilled in me early from my mother. Standing up when no one else will, fighting for what’s right despite the echoing voices of naysayers, and pushing forward through all obstacles – is my foundation. My beliefs are what drive me to tackle our society’s most pressing issues. Educating our people about the policy making process, inspiring millennials to take a seat at the table of our government, respecting our seniors by ensuring their future days are as good as their younger days – are reasons why I serve,” he added. 

“Our country is at a serious inflection point,” Hepburn concluded. “The occupant of the White House is part of the equation but he’s not the root of the problem. The issues that consume our nation – massive income inequality, institutionalized bigotry, spineless politicians, and our inability of treating all lives with humanity and respect is an anchor that has plagued our nation for decades. We have not yet delivered on our nation’s proclaimed values and goals. Our people are not experiencing equal opportunity for all, many are not able to develop their God-given potential and our next generation of leadership struggle with just staying alive – due to our American belief that guns are more important than our people. Making progress on longstanding challenges requires a new perspective. I will be one of the boldest voices in Congress, as an activist for the entire district and as a champion for education, healthcare and economic justice for all. This age of time demands nothing less.”

Hepburn doesn’t have an open shot at Shalala as educator Donald Summeralls is also running in the Democratic primary. Maria Salazar, a former news anchor who Shalala beat in November, is running for the Republican nomination where she faces engineer and businessman Gabe Ferrer and realtor Juan Fiol. 

On paper, this is a swing district. In the last election cycle, 35 percent of voters in this Miami-Dade district were registered Democrats and 32 percent were registered Republicans. But Donald Trump pulled 38 percent here in 2016 while Hillary Clinton took 58 percent. Shalala won 51 percent to Salazar’s 45 percent. 

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