Rep. Meek reading the “Sentinel”Â
Congressman Kendrick Meek visits the “Sentinel”
He is the representative of Florida’s 17th Congressional District and he is running to be the state’s next U.S. Senator.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Assistant Managing Editor
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, Congressman Kendrick Meek paid a visit to the “Los Angeles Sentinel” and discussed a myriad of issues including the nation’s healthcare crisis, his campaign for the U.S. Senate, the Congressional Black Caucus, Education, Foreclosures, Un-employment and how the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are affecting the economy of the country.
The congressman followed his mother, former Congresswoman Carrie Meek to the 17th Congressional District in Florida and has been re-elected for four successive terms with no official opponent. In positioning himself to run for the U.S. Senate, if elected, he would become the seventh African American to serve in that august body.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL (LAS): On behalf of our publisher, I welcome you to the Los Angeles Sentinel. I’ve read where you are a member of the New Democratic Coalition; what is the New Democratic Coalition?
CONGRESSMAN KENDRICK MEEK (CKM): The New Democratic Coalition is a coalition of Democrats who are moderate Democrats of centrists looking at issues that are surrounding ways that we can do things better not only economically but also as sensible as it relates to environmental policies. We also try to bring conservative Democrats and very liberal Democrats together towards a common goal to be able to move agendas forward.
We look at this healthcare debate, for example… how do we pass healthcare reform? How do we make sure that it is not crippling small businesses? How do we make sure that the policy is something that all Democrats would be able to embrace?
Very seldom do you hear about the New Democratic Coalition; you hear about blue dogs, you hear about yellow dog Democrats but very seldom do you hear about your moderate policy makers.
LAS: Is the coalition a part of the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus)?
CKM: No, it’s outside of the CBC. The CBC is a caucus; this is not a caucus. It’s just a group of Democrats that have come together … a number of the people who identify with Democratic leadership.
LAS: Since you came into a seat that was occupied by your mother, was it a very big boost; did you start off with a tailwind?
CKM: In 1994, when I ran for the State House of Representatives, it was an open seat. There were a lot of people who knew my mother and knew very little about me. I was just 26 years old.
LAS: So she had retired?
CKM: No, she was still a Member of Congress, so I ran for the State House of Representatives. We won that election without a runoff. Then in 1998, I ran for the State Senate and we won that election. In 2002, my mother retired so I replaced her in Congress and that was an election which I ran unopposed.
LAS: Now you’re going after the U.S. Senate … how does that look; what do you think your chances are?
CKM: I think the chances are good; we’re not neck-and-neck in the polls right now but I can tell you that this time next year, things will look a lot better. I represent Dade and Broward Counties, which is South Florida in the U.S. Congress, and we have a district that is pretty much a footprint of what Florida is all about. It’s multi-cultural; it’s a growing part of the state just like other parts of the state are growing but probably not as high a rate as the South Florida area.
I’ve been a state trooper in the state of Florida for about five years, served in the state legislature, been involved in statewide policy issues as it relates to constitutional amendments, and now I’m in my fourth term in Congress. I’ve served with great distinction for 15 years … next year, it’ll be 16 and I’m the leading Democratic candidate.
LAS: So do you see this as a shoo-in to the U.S. Senate?
CKM: No, I would see this as an opportunity to be the Democratic nominee in Florida for the U.S. Senate. The governor (Charlie Crist) is also running for the seat; the former speaker of the (state) house is running for the seat but they’re all on the Republican side. So they’re in the primary.
LAS: And who is your opposition on the Democratic side in the primary?
CKM: There aren’t any major candidates; I’m the only major candidate in the race.
LAS: Historically, the Black press and Black elected officials have always shared common interests; they need to work together, if they don’t. Now what do you think about a lot of the money that is coming out of Washington – the stimulus, the cash-for-clunkers and so on – and seems to move away from the Black press? In other words, the Black press does not seem to get its fair share of advertising dollars. Do you think there is something that you, as a U.S. Senator or Congressman could do to change that dynamic – monies that are to the media?
CKM: I know that there are agencies that do that… like announcements, it may be the EPA about jobs or the Department of Homeland Security but I do not know of a centralized advertising place; I know on the political side, it’s discretionary.
LAS: For example, the federal government has bailed out the banks, Chrysler, GM and so on. And in order for them to do what they are supposed to do, they have to let the people know, they have to get the media involved. Usually the Black media gets a disproportionate amount, crumbs. What would you be able to do as a senator or a representative to make sure that the Black press gets a fair share of the government media allotment?
CKM: You may know a lot more about this than I do. I don’t know what the government is doing with other papers … I know that the military takes out ads in many of the periodicals, weeklies or dailies recruiting. You mentioned cash-for-clunkers, that would be more of the dealerships trying to promote that … also the press releases from the designated agencies that would be over that. What I am saying is that I don’t know exactly as it relates to a percentage of those dollars being spent in minority or majority papers. We just have to make sure there’s not an inequity as it relates to an advertising budget that an agency has, saying that there should be strong consideration for x amount of those dollars should be spent in minority papers.
LAS: What would you do if elected to the U.S. Senate?
CKM: Following and refining this healthcare reform that we have right now. The bill that we will pass by the end of the year will be a bill that’s a major first step in putting into place a structure for healthcare reform throughout the country.