In the past week the Political Hurricane has detailed the continued “evolution” of Florida Democrats from supporters of public education to well funded opponents of the traditional public school system. The Democratic Leader in the House, Rep. Ron Saunders of Key West, has voted consistently over the past two sessions in lock step with the Jeb Bush/Rick Scott education agenda. For his efforts Saunders has been reciprocated with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash as he seeks a State Senate seat.
Saunders alliance with the GOP on education issues continues a pattern of political chameleon like behavior. When Saunders ran his failed Sloppy Joe’s franchise in Key West he entered into a business partnership with future Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer. He also ran in this same Senate district ten years ago when he did not have an established legal residence within 350 miles of the district. Under Florida law that is permissible but still violated the spirit of having single member districts. Saunders’ tenure as Democratic Leader has been characterized by a flat footedness and an inability to embrace a progressive message or causes, leading to a divided caucus where literally every member is able to make the best deal possible for themselves with the GOP leadership. Saunders has allowed his moderate instincts to deprive the Democrats of a unified voice and Florida’s citizens of a vibrant opposition party in the legislature, something that has benefited Rick Scott and his allies.
Saunders is in a five way primary for the Democratic nomination. Any of the other four candidates would be preferable to Saunders, but one stands out. Rep. Dwight Bullard, whose mother is the current Senator, deserves the support of all progressive Democrats in this district. Bullard has emerged since the statewide defeat of Dan Gelber in 2010 as perhaps the most articulate proponent of Florida’s Public Schools in the state legislature. Bullard has provided strong leadership to those Democrats still brave enough to fight the tide of right-wing money and their own House leadership who have become proponents of destroying Florida’s public schools.
Bullard’s views on public education are far more developed than that of his mother, whose record on many issues has been spotty at best. As a school teacher and leader in Miami-Dade County on education issues, Bullard has time and again demonstrated his leadership on these issues. Bullard received a 100 rating from this website for his votes over the past two sessions proving his progressive credentials.
Bullard has been singled out by pro-voucher groups as someone who is voting against the interest of his mostly African-American constituents. However, the theory that his constituents would universally benefit from any school choice program is simply based on assumptions. The supporters of school vouchers have yet to produce any credible or valid studies on student achievement of low income voucher children being higher than when those same students were in public school.
The winner of the Democratic Primary in this district will be heavily favored to win the November election. The Political Hurricane strongly endorses Dwight Bullard for State Senate District 39.