PHOENIX (AP) — Martin Luther King III came to Arizona with harsh words for Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, whose refusal to change the Senate’s Jim Crow-era filibuster rules makes voting rights legislation unlikely to pass.
King told a crowd campaigning to protect voting rights that Sinema cannot simultaneously express support for the legislation while also blocking their approval.
“History will remember Sen. Sinema, I believe unkindly, for her position on the filibuster,” the civil rights leader’s eldest son said as the nation prepares to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
With his wife Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter Yolanda Renee King, 13, the family joined a march in Phoenix with local activists and supporters from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church, and spoke about the importance of “no celebration without legislation.”
“Our daughter has less rights around voting than she had when she was born,” King said in an interview. “I can’t imagine what my mother and father would say about that. I’m sure they’re turning over and over in their graves about this.”
Arizona is one of 19 states that have passed more than 30 state voting laws in the last year — including a ban on giving water to voters in long lines, and stricter ballot signature requirements — that King called “draconian.” They make it harder for people to vote, especially people of color, he said.
Another reason the family chose to appear in Arizona is to send a message to Sinema. President Joe Biden had implored her and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, to end the filibuster rules that require 60 of 100 senators to pass most legislation.
Sinema poured cold water that idea Thursday, making clear in a dramatic speech on the Senate floor that while she supports the voting rights legislation, she would not alter filibuster rules so it could move forward. The filibuster, she said, forces bipartisan cooperation. Otherwise, Republicans could just repeal and replace whenever they rise to power.
“We must address the disease itself, the disease of division, to protect our democracy,” said Sinema, drawing disappointment from fellow Democrats.
Sinema was jeered by some of the hundreds of people attending Saturday’s rally after the Rev. Warren Stewart, a prominent Black clergy member and activist, said she was among “those … who would hide behind procedure.”
The plea from the King family brings an especially powerful voice to an increasingly tense campaign to pressure Sinema to change her mind. Progressive groups have installed billboards and aired television ads, and activists even harassed Sinema in a bathroom at Arizona State University and a friend’s wedding where the senator officiated.
Congressional Democrats have written voting legislation that would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections in a generation by striking down hurdles to voting enacted in the name of election security. The legislation also would reduce the influence of big money in politics and limit partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.
It also includes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would strengthen civil rights-era voting law and honor the legacy of the late Georgia congressman.
Supporters had hoped legislation would advance by Monday’s MLK holiday. Still encouraged, King urged people to take action like sign petitions or call their senators. The holiday is “not a traditional celebration where you kick back, eat barbeque and just relax,” he said. “This is about working.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, having worked closely as a young man with Martin Luther King Jr., said Friday that he was worried about the current lack of political consensus on voting rights. Previously, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with both parties recognizing the historic nature of the legislation.
“The right to vote was the crown jewel of the civil rights struggle,” Jackson said in a phone interview, adding that “we’re in a desperate situation.”
Ultimately, he agrees with members of the King family who are pushing for MLK Day celebrations to take a different tone until Congress acts on the voting rights bills.
“There’s no time to celebrate,” Jackson said. “It’s time to demonstrate, march in big numbers. We cannot just be silent observers in this fight.” ___
Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Paul Davenport in Phoenix and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.
Florida House Democratic Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell Announces Leadership Team
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.
VIDEO: State Rep. Dianne Hart elected chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus
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.
Former State Rep. Bruce Antone Ready To Rejoin Florida House
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.
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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