October 18, 2017

Frederica Wilson spent years consoling constituents before Trump challenged her

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It wasn’t a coincidence that Frederica Wilson was in the car with the family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson when Donald Trump called.

Wilson, a 74-year-old fourth-term congresswoman from Miami Gardens, has spent years consoling and advocating for victims of gun violence in her overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning district in north Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties.

While Johnson’s death during an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger was different from the dozens of young people who have died from gunfire in Wilson’s district, her hands-on approach toward constituents who are dealing with heartache has been a priority for the former elementary school principal for years.

“When residents of her district are killed she is there to help the family... she is there to help the community cope,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, whose Miami Gardens-based district overlaps with much of Wilson’s. “She does what many people ask Donald Trump to do, which is to be a consoler -in-chief.”

Wilson has come out firing after Trump accused her of misrepresenting his words to Johnson’s family during a phone call minutes before Johnson’s body arrived at Miami International Airport on Tuesday.

The congresswoman said she overheard when Trump told Johnson’s family the solder “knew what he signed up for... but when it happens it hurts anyway.”

Trump tweeted in response: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” The president called Johnson’s family nearly two weeks after the fatal ambush in Niger. 

“I still stand by my account of the call b/t Donald Trump and Myeshia Johnson,” Wilson tweeted on Wednesday. “That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife.’”

This isn’t the first time Wilson has waded into a national story on behalf of her majority-black district.

In 2012, 17-year-old Travyon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman while visiting relatives in Central Florida. Martin grew up and attended high school in Wilson’s district, and the congresswoman made a point to insert herself as a voice against Florida’s stand-your-ground law that initially kept Zimmerman from facing charge

“I’m going to say it like I see it. Travyon was hunted down like a rabid dog,” Wilson said in 2012. “He was shot in the street. He was racially profiled.”

Read more here.

May 17, 2017

Braynon to governor: We'll work with you to block override

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Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Rick Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told the Herald/Times.

Pressure is mounting for the governor to veto HB 7069, and potentially the entire K-12 budget, and the 15-member Senate Democratic caucus will play a key role in making sure the Republican-controlled Legislature doesn't override that veto.

"We have to have a reason to override,'' Braynon of Miami Gardens said, referring to his Democratic colleagues. "It would depend on what the veto message looks like and if his vetoes include a bunch of things that matter to Democrats, then we're not going to override. We're willing to come back and work."

The Senate would need 26 votes to override the governor's veto and, with Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala openly suggesting he would support a veto, plus the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, the numbers won't add up if the Senate Democrats hold most of their 15 members.

"We want to see a change in RLE and FEFP,'' Braynon said. "We're not against funding Visit Florida. If the Republicans ask for an override of 7069, we're not going to do it. If they want an override of the whole budget, we will withhold our judgment on overriding until we see what happens." 

He said that the opportunity presents the governor with a rare opportunity to work with Democrats and Democrat-aligned groups, such as the teachers union. He noted that after former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed SB 6 in 2010, a bill that would have linked teacher pay to student test scores, the Florida Education Association endorsed him for U.S. Senate over Kendrick Meek, the father of the class-size amendment. 

"This sets up an opportunity for him," Braynon said, adding. "I haven't always agreed with the governor but I'm willing to keep trying. I can find common ground with anybody."

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

February 20, 2017

Senate Democratic leader to Gov. Rick Scott: Treat opioid crisis as a public health emergency

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Florida Senate Democrats are urging Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency over the growing opioid epidemic in the state.

“No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday.

“There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” Braynon added.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon / AP

January 31, 2017

Senate Democratic leader from Miami Gardens recounts his 'reality' with gun violence

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With controversial gun legislation again proposed for Florida lawmakers to consider this spring, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told reporters Tuesday that the Legislature needs to do a better job of understanding the true reality of gun violence -- as opposed to referencing hypothetical, Hollywood-inspired examples.

And he speaks from experience.

RELATED: "These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017"

"My reality is a little different from their’s," the Miami Gardens Democrat said, referring to his fellow legislators. "How many people have been in a club that got shot up? I can raise my hand and say that I have."

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau