Below is a one-on-one interview with Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), the congressman from Florida’s 17th district, which includes northern Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties.
What is your position on repealing the gay ban in the military? Why?
The last three years, I’ve supported repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. General Colin Powell said that it was the wrong decision when they made the decision. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullin has said that it has nothing to do with the defense of the country. If we ask our men and women to be honorable and to be truthful with the people that they serve within this country, the last thing that we should ask them to do is lie about their orientation. That has nothing to do with their commitment and level of service to the country. So, I believe it will make it through the Congress. I’m in support of it and have been in support of it.
How do you compare to Jeff Greene when it comes to the economic struggles facing middle class families today?
Well, I’m proven. I’ve taken the tough votes and I’ve taken the tough positions in creating job opportunities. I have 100 percent Sierra Club rating which will give me more credentials in than anyone else in this race, including Jeff Greene who has no credentials. He just moved to the state of Florida in 2008. He’s only voted 4 times in the history of his life and has only voted once Democratic and he’s going to ask Democrats to go out and vote for him. When you look at this, you have to look at it from the standpoint, can you trust those that are running. Can you trust them to do what they said would do?
We’ve amended the state constitution to make class sizes smaller for children and for teachers. I’ve gone out there and I’ve fought on behalf of the stimulus package and never backed away from the stimulus package as being a part of bringing about equal opportunities here in the state. Many individuals especially in communities of struggle, the only reason why they can’t get to the jobs because they don’t have a way to get to those jobs and with high speed rail it will allow opportunities between Orlando and Tampa.
For someone to live in Parramore and travel to Tampa for a job, I think it’s going to provide opportunities. Green initiatives, putting solar panels on top of homes the transition that we must go through as a state because petroleum is not our future, it’s our past. The fact that I have been strong on this is going to help me through the process of talking about creating jobs and also talking about saving our environment. Health care. I took the step on health care. I said that it was important that we pass health care legislation. I am on the only major candidate in this race that who not only said it, but did it. Mr. Crist and Mr. Rubio want to see it repealed. I have good history on my side and also a bright future on my side.
With Mr. Greene, there’s a question mark. He says that he can create jobs because he knows what it means to sign the front of a paycheck. Well guess what, being the representative on behalf of the people of the state of Florida is not just about signing the paycheck because the people you’re going to be representing, the super, super, super vast majority of the individuals are going to be signing the back of the paycheck. You have to understand the struggles of their family, you have to understand the struggle of their community, you gotta understand the challenges to veterans, all of these things. So I look forward to a very health debate how we outline the differences between what we put on paper and what’s reality.
Do you support gay adoption? Why?
Florida is the only state in the union that denies couples from adopting children. Florida has one of the largest waiting lists on homes to place kids out of foster care. I don’t agree with the gay adoption ban. I think it has nothing to do with having a child grow up in a home where people love that child and willing to take care of that child and willing to make sure that child goes to college and become an adult. To have willing adults willing to raise children in this state is far better than having a child in a foster home.
All due respect to foster parents, OK. Eight and nine kids in a house that are going to be released at the age of 18. I can tell you that at age 18 I wasn’t ready to be released from anything. I needed that parental involvement. If adoptions can take place in states like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, you name it, and Florida seems to be the only hold out, it speaks more to political agendas versus making sure that those children are taken care of.
Some polls show that you are trailing your competitors. Do you have plans to change your campaign strategy?
Because we have limited resources and they are not dismal resources, they are limited. We are planning to really, over the summer start to promote ourselves in a way that we have not in the past. We have to make sure that we are up on radio ads and newspapers, TV and that we stay up. We are running against a billionaire that made his fortune off of homes failing in Florida and he’s using those dollars to promote himself to be the senator for the state that he created all of this misery.
I look forward to talking about my platform on getting people back to work. I’m using transportation opportunities, using green initiatives opportunities and also talking about my track record. I’m endorsed not only by President Obama but also by President Clinton and working men and women in this state including police officers and firefighters and schoolteachers. So I look forward to talking about those things as we move through this campaign that will help promote my candidacy more than you see right now. This is June. The election is in August and so you will start seeing some evidence of this forward lean as we start getting into the issues.
Roland Martin wrote an article that if you don’t win this race, the presidential race in 2012 would certainly suffer. Do you agree? If so, why do you believe that to be true?
Running against a billionaire that is a part of Wall Street, since we’re saying we are a party of reform of Wall Street. If he leads the ticket, at the top of the ticket, folks will feel deflated, Democrats will feel “How in the world did this happen” and it will not mobilize those individuals that we need to come out: People of good will. The fact that I have been a lifelong Democrat, that I’ve worked hard, not only as a good policy maker but as a state trooper, it is important that we put all hands on deck.
It’s rumored that the Democratic Party has abandoned you and is now supporting Charlie Crist. What are your thoughts of this?
That’s not true. The fact that President Obama and President Clinton, the Florida Democratic Party has said that I’m their candidate, the local Democratic Executive Committees many of whom are working with me and my campaign. Organizing for America, we are doing a lot of great things as it relates to working hand in hand with that great organization which is the DNC. Can the Democratic Party do more? Absolutely. The rumor about the Governor and his “Johnny come lately attitude” to many issues that Democrats care about, I think in the final analysis in the general election, because it’s all about the primary right now.
The primary election will set the tone and will make me an equal in the general election, if not greater than the two candidates that are there now. I’m the only candidate that is considered one of the three major candidates that have reached within communities. We have qualified by signature something that no one else has done. I think it’s very, very important that people realize that. I’m not overly concerned about the Governor and his position right now because first things first. We have to win in the primary, we have to get the vote out in the primary.
In regards to the Arizona Immigration Law, how do police decide whom to stop?
Well that’s the reason why it’s a slippery slope. Law enforcement should not be put in a position of having to ask for individuals’ resident status or citizenship. We have people of the Latino community that have served this country. They come in all shades of skin color. I think it will drive a wedge between law enforcement in preventing and solving crimes in Hispanic communities and in communities of struggle.
The reason I am against the Arizona Law is because I feel that its application is too broad and too deep diving because it will violate the rights of those everyday citizens and individuals who have fought for this country. That’s the reason why we must past comprehensive immigration reform and not get into the local application of enforcement.
Why do you support a woman’s right to choose on abortion?
I support a woman’s right to choose because I think it’s hypocritical for a male dominated legislature or Congress to have extra steps for women but not extra steps for men. We should allow women to make their own decisions on what they do with their bodies and we should stay out of it. I have 100 percent Planned Parenthood record and I can’t say the same about my opponent because he has no record.