Former State Representative Jim Waldman and current Rep. Gwen Clarke-Reed have gotten a power assists in State Senate District 34 race from a group associated with John Kirtley, the Tampa-area venture capitalist that is the chief funder of school “choice” efforts in the state of Florida. The Florida Federation for Children a group headed by Kirtley has weighed in heavily in the State senate District 34 seat where voucher opponent Gary Farmer is under siege from mailers designed to convince Democratic Primary voters to oppose the local attorney in favor of one of his opponents. Both Waldman and Clarke-Reed have voted in the past for school “choice” measures while members of the State House.
Waldman has a record in general that would offend progressives – he’s raised lots of money from Republicans, voted with the gun lobby in 2014 on HB 89 and supported school “choice.” Waldman’s employment at Keiser University has previously been at issue though in fairness, as a State Representative, he did not always back the school “choice” position. It is also worth noting Waldman endorsed late Republican Congressman E. Clay Shaw in his re-election race in 2002. This position though was shared by many Broward County elected officials (Waldman was on the Coconut Creek Commission at the time) in both parties who had a strong relationship with a relatively-moderate senior Congressman in the majority party. Still, this endorsement could prove to be an issue for some die-in-the-wool Democratic primary voters.
Clarke-Reed supported school choice initiatives as well and thus Kirtley’s group which has essentially gone national via the national American Federation for Children has incentive to try and weaken Farmer in this race.
In the home stretch of Democratic primaries throughout the state school voucher and charter school proponents are pouring resources into races across the state. Earlier today, Florida Politics reported on a similar campaign waged by Kirtley’s group in the Senate District 11 Democratic Primary.
While these days every Democrat running for office in a contested primary likes to claim the progressive mantle, the support of Kirtley and his allies in the Charter School and voucher movements gives liberal voters a clear idea as to who really stands with them on the values the party claims to advocate. As we enter the final week before the primary, TFS will be going through great pains to educate our readers about who stands with public education and who stands against it.