by Howard Campbell
[SOUTH FLORIDA] – A giant of South Florida politics, Alcee Hastings left massive shoes to fill when he died from pancreatic cancer on April 6. Dale Holness is confident he has the capacity to succeed him as United States Congressman for Florida’s District 20.
Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced November 2 as the date for a special election for the vacant seat. The general election is scheduled for January 11.
The Jamaica-born Holness, who served one year as mayor of Broward County, has been county commissioner for District 9 since 2010. Winning re-election three times. He was vice mayor prior to becoming mayor in 2019.
Holness, 64, not only pointed to his close personal relationship with Hastings. He said they shared a similar vision for constituents.
“I worked with him very closely on many, many issues especially on the issue of immigration. He supported me on the citizenship drives that I have done to assist those who have lived here with a Green Card for three years if they are married to an American citizen for five years, if they are not, to get their citizenship,” he told South Florida Caribbean News. “We worked together on businesses coming in to (the district) do business. We worked closely on improving the electoral process, economic issues, trade and other things.”
While he is considered a frontrunner, Holness will face stiff competition. His fellow Broward commissioner, Barbara Sharief, state senator Perry Thurston, and state representatives Omari Hardy and Bobby Dubose, are potential rivals.
Since 1992, Hastings represented what was once District 23 (it became the 20th district after re-configuration eight years ago) which has over 800,000 citizens, most of whom are of Caribbean descent. The region is overwhelmingly Democrat which makes the winner of November’s poll a shoo-in for January’s election.
The victor will represent District 20 in mid-term elections, due in November, 2022.
Owner of a real estate company, Holness has lived in South Florida for over 40 years. As daunting as holding a seat in the United States House of Representatives is, getting his ideas across on a national scale is the most appealing prospect of his upcoming run.
One of the areas Holness plans to maintain focus is nurturing and encouraging small, black-owned businesses. This has been a hallmark of his 17-year tenure as a public servant. Education for minorities from low-income backgrounds is another priority.
“We need to understand the needs of our community. And, ensure that low-income communities, mostly black, are given tools to prosper. Which means we need to put more resources in our small, minority businesses. This includes not only with finances but with technical assistance,” Holness stressed. “We’ve done that in Broward County; when I got to the county only 10 and a quarter per cent of our procurement went to small, minority-owned businesses; today it’s 44 per cent. That’s a huge difference, and we need to do more of that so we can be competitive against multi-national corporations.”
On April 21, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus attended an event celebrating the life of Alcee Hastings, in Washington DC.