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Clyburn, architect of Biden’s court pledge, pushes his pick

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — At President Joe Biden’s lowest moment in the 2020 campaign, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn came to him with a suggestion: He should pledge to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

After some cajoling, Biden made the promise at a Democratic debate, a move Clyburn credits with turning out the Black support that helped Biden score a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary and ultimately win the White House.

Two years later, the hoped-for vacancy on the court has arrived with the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. Biden is standing by his pledge. And Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, has another ask.

“Judge (Michelle) Childs has everything I think it takes to be great,” Clyburn said.

As the lobbying begins over filling the open court seat, Clyburn is harnessing his history with Biden and his stature as the No. 3 House Democrat to make a forceful case for his preferred choice, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, a jurist from his native South Carolina. It’s a campaign he’s making in public and in private, helping elevate Childs to an emerging short list of Black women who could soon make history.

In addition to Childs, early discussions about a successor include California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, as well as Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer clerk who is now on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Biden is also looking at U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright from Minnesota and Melissa Murray, a New York University law professor who is an expert in family law and reproductive rights justice.

For Biden, the court opening is a chance to show Black voters that he has not forgotten his promises to them, particularly after his failure this month to deliver on voting rights legislation in the Senate. He said Thursday that having a Black woman on the court is “long overdue” and that he would announce his choice by the end of February.

Clyburn had a head start. He began making his case for Childs more than two years ago.

In December 2020, just weeks after Biden won the White House, Clyburn said he wrote to the then-president elect advocating that Childs be promoted from South Carolina’s federal trial bench to the D.C. appeals court. A seat on court is often seen as a springboard for Supreme Court nominees.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, that’s the way you need to go, to go to the Supreme Court,’” Clyburn said, of the appellate level. “I’ve never agreed to that, but you know, I don’t have to agree with all the rules that I have to play by.”

Last month, Biden officially submitted Childs’ name for an open slot on the circuit court. Her Senate hearing had been expected this coming week, which would have given Childs a closely watched audition of sorts, but staffers said Friday that had been delayed.

In interviews over recent days, Clyburn has argued that, if Childs were nominated, she could win the backing of South Carolina’s two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott — an enticing prospect for Biden, offering the possibility of a pick that could satisfy the party and also win bipartisan support.

On Sunday, Graham, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, highly praised Childs as a “fair-minded, highly gifted jurist” who would bring important perspectives to the high court if chosen.

“In the history of our country we’ve only had five women serve and two African-American men. So let’s make the court more like America,” Graham told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But qualifications have to be the biggest consideration, and as to Michelle Childs, I think she’s qualified by every measure.”

A spokeswoman for Scott lauded Childs’ “respected reputation as a judge in South Carolina” and said “he looks forward to engaging with her if she is the nominee.”

Unlike most high court nominees, Childs isn’t an Ivy League graduate or a former federal appellate clerk. The 55-year-old graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She also holds a master’s degree from the university’s business school, as well as a legal master’s from Duke.

Clyburn, who often pushed for ethnic and educational diversity among Biden’s Cabinet picks, said he felt Childs’ education outside the Ivy League, coupled with her upbringing in a single-parent household, would give the court an important perspective it is now missing.

“We run the risk of creating an elite society,” Clyburn told reporters. “We’ve got to recognize that people come from all walks of life, and we ought not dismiss anyone because of that.”

During years in private practice in Columbia, Childs became the first Black female partner at one of the state’s largest law firms, where she focused on employment and labor law. After several years as a state court judge, she was appointed to the federal trial bench. In 2014, before the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had a right to marry nationwide, she ruled in favor of a gay couple seeking to have their District of Columbia marriage recognized in South Carolina.

All of her experiences, Clyburn said, give Childs the “ability to empathize.”

Asked in a 2020 Q&A with her alma mater what advice she would give a young lawyer, Childs opined on the meaning of success, stressing the importance of becoming “a person of courage and conviction.”

“We all have a crucial role, individually and collectively, to be architects of society,” she said. “Being successful is not just for the purpose of a place of comfort and satisfaction, but a place of responsibility and challenge.”

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Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell Announces Leadership Team

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) today announced the appointment of the following Democratic Representatives to serve on the House Democratic Caucus leadership team for the 2022-24 legislative term:

  • Leader Pro Tempore: Representative Dotie Joseph (D-Miami);
  • Policy Chair: Representative Kelly Skidmore (D-Boca Raton);
  • Floor Leader: Representative Michael “Mike” Gottlieb (D-Davie); and
  • Whip: Representative Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland).

“The House Democratic Caucus is made up of some of the strongest, most fierce champions of the people in the entire state,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “It is an honor and great pleasure to work with these individuals in this new capacity, and all of them are prepared to lead the Caucus in the face of the challenges that lie ahead of us.”

As Leader Pro Tempore, Representative Joseph will assist the Democratic Leader in carrying out designated responsibilities and perform such Leadership responsibilities as are assigned, including stepping in for the Leader as needed.

“I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Representative Joseph for over 20 years. From the time we were at Georgetown Law to now, she has always been a consistent champion for justice. The issues she advocates for on behalf of all Floridians makes Representative Joseph an invaluable asset in defending Floridians against extremist Republican policies,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “I look forward to Representative Joseph’s leadership as a key member of my team over the next two years.”

In her role as the Caucus Policy Chair, Representative Skidmore will be responsible for ensuring the Caucus continues to champion legislation that positively impacts all Floridians, and will lead discussions about bills before the House at Caucus meetings.

“As the previous Policy Chair for the Caucus, I know what is needed to do this job. Appointing Representative Skidmore as Policy Chair was an easy choice,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “She stood out as a prime member in understanding policy during the last legislative term. Representative Skidmore also brings with her a wealth of experience as both a former House and Senate staffer and House member. Applying her unique skillset to this new role will benefit the Caucus and all Floridians.”

In his role as Floor Leader, Representative Gottlieb will be responsible in interpreting the House Rules, ensuring the Caucus adheres to the agreed upon rules, and working with his Republican counterpart in advocating for fair amounts of time be allotted to the Caucus in debating different pieces of legislation.

“Two things I greatly appreciate about Representative Gottlieb are his refreshing candor and strong fortitude,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “As the minority party in the Legislature, we’re aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us. What we need right now is someone who is unwavering under extreme pressure to help guide our Caucus during difficult moments. Representative Gottlieb is perfectly suited for this role.”

As Whip, Representative Hunschofsky will be responsible for keeping all Democratic Caucus members apprised of Caucus policy on any bills or issues before the House.

Representative Hunschofsky has an amazing ability to get things done,” said Leader-Designate Driskell. “Not only does Representative Hunschofsky possess a wealth of knowledge due to her experience as the former mayor of Parkland, Florida, she is also a champion of many initiatives close to Floridians’ hearts, such as expanding access to quality mental health care. I know Representative Hunschofsky’s knowledge and ability will help prepare our Caucus for the challenges of the next two year.”

The Florida House Democratic Caucus will convene during Organizational Session taking place Nov. 21-22, 2022 in advance of the 2023 Legislative Session scheduled to begin on March 7, 2023.

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VIDEO: State Rep. Dianne Hart elected chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Dianne Hart (D-Tampa), incoming Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, talks briefly with Florida National News on the importance of the Florida Blue Florida Classic at Camping World Stadium in Orlando Saturday. The Florida Classic is an annual college football rivalry game between Bethune–Cookman University and Florida A&M University.

Hart’s Twitter Statement:

Hart’s statement: “I’m honored to have been elected as the Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.” “I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support and for trusting me to move this important caucus forward.”

During the 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions, Rep. Hart served on the following House committees, including Democratic Ranking Member of the Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, Judiciary Committee, Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight, Ways & Means Committee, Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee and Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity.

Hart was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018. She is also the CEO of the East Tampa Business and Civic Association.

 

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Former State Rep. Bruce Antone Ready To Rejoin Florida House

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Former State Representative Bruce Antone respond to questions by CFABJ, NAACP, and the Florida Voters League panel during a candidates forum in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Former Florida State Representative Bruce Antone served 12 years (six terms) in the Florida House of Representatives and defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Travaris McCurdy during the August primary election to represent Orange County in the newly draw District 41 House seat.

CFABJ, NAACP, and Florida Voters League held a candidates forum for candidates seeking county, state and Congressional seats in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

CFABJ, NAACP, and Florida Voters League held a candidates forum for candidates seeking county, state and Congressional seats in Orange County, Thursday, October 19, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News)

Antone was among eleven candidates seeking election to county, state and Congressional seats participating in a candidate forum hosted by CFABJ, NAACP and the Florida Voters League, Wednesday, October 19, 2022.

Green Party nominee Robin Denise Harris is the only potential road block in Antone’s return to Tallahassee and faces off with him in the November general election. The District 41 House seat has an overwhelmingly Democratic voter base.

During his time in the Florida House, Antone was elected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the 29-member Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

The general election is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

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