By Kevin Deutsch
As part of our coverage of the Special Election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, Tamarac Talk is publishing questionnaires from each qualifying candidate who answered our questions before our July 31 deadline.
The Primary Election has been scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021, and the General Election for Jan. 11, 2022.
This seat includes Tamarac, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Belle Glade. The questionnaires have been edited for length and clarity.
Name: Elvin J. Dowling
Family Status: Married for 16 years and the father of 3 children
Current Job: Small Business Owner, Grant Writer, and Author
Municipality of residence: Miramar
Have you ever been arrested, charged with a criminal offense, or convicted of a crime?
Have you run for office before? If so, please provide details.
What is your professional and educational background?
President and CEO of Global Image Consulting (2009–present). Chief of Staff at the National Urban League (2003–2009). Chief of Staff, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated (2001 – 2003). Other positions included Fundraiser/Volunteer Coordinator at Bailey’s Crossroads Homeless Shelter, United States Congressional Staffer, and Palm Beach County Commission Aide.
B.S. in Social Science from the University of Maryland; graduate of Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach.
Why are you running for this Congressional seat?
Throughout the entirety of my life, I have worked to uplift the lives of real people—in a real way. More importantly, however, I have done so with the heart of a servant leader. I grew up on the corner of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Palm Beach County. Yet, I have been privileged to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, win the highest honor a native author in Florida can receive as the recipient of the 2020 Florida Book Award, and now have the distinction of having my work permanently memorialized in the Florida Governor’s Mansion.
As an individual who has defied both odds and expectations, I endeavor to live a life that makes others proud. Today, as the proud husband of an accomplished wife and the father to three great kids, I have been blessed beyond measure, making my responsibility to protect their future all the more pressing. It is because of my concern for their future and the future of all children that I am running to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
What sets your candidacy and platform apart from the other candidates?
What sets my candidacy apart from the other candidates seeking this position is my undeniable ability to get things done on behalf of the people I have been privileged to serve. Whether in my professional capacity as a successful non-profit executive who helped lead efforts to raise more than $110 million to build the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., or in my community service roles where I have connected millions of local families with the resources they needed to help to make ends meet.
For example, when COVID-19 first impacted South Florida last March and government leaders and institutions failed the people, resulting in historic unemployment and massive food lines, I stepped forward with an offer to help the most vulnerable. As chairman of one of South Florida’s largest food banks, I developed a historic partnership with multiple cities and municipalities throughout Congressional District 20 that provided a real-time response to a real-time need within their communities. Together, we worked to provide 15 million pounds of free food to nearly 2 million South Florida families.
Another important distinction that sets me apart from the other candidates in this race is my clear and unequivocal advocacy for civil rights and equal justice for all. As the former Chief of Staff for one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, I fought to protect the rights of the disadvantaged and underserved all across this country and throughout South Florida.
What in your estimate are the three biggest issues facing this congressional district?
Better Jobs. Safer Communities. A need for servant leadership.
What do you consider your most important 1) personal connection and 2) professional connection to this district?
Born the son of an unwed teenage mother in West Palm Beach, having lost two brothers and most of my first cousins to the scourge of gang and street violence in the early 1990s (a problem that continues to persist today), and formerly homeless myself, I understand the pain experienced by those languishing on the margins of poverty and impacted by the ongoing violence faced by the “least of these” within Florida’s 20th Congressional District.
That’s why I personally led historic efforts to get the Department of Justice to invest $2 million to mentor at-risk youths in 69 cities across the United States, to include West Palm Beach, Belle Glade, Fort Lauderdale, Tamarac, and Miramar, as a part of the nationally acclaimed Go-To-High-School, Go-To-College Program. From the historically Black and underserved community of Pleasant City, from whence I hail, to the beautiful gated community in Broward County that I have called home for more than a decade, I understand the needs of this district perhaps more than most and am prepared to articulate and represent those needs in the halls of the United States Congress.
When I was sixteen years old, I started a soup kitchen under a sprawling oak tree in downtown West Palm Beach to feed men and women who were addicted to drugs during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. Since then, I have continued to serve the people of this great district in a meaningful way that has empowered communities and changed lives for over three decades.
I began my professional career in the rough and tumble world of South Florida government, having served various elected officials throughout Palm Beach County at the local, county, state, and federal levels. At age 20, I served as the youngest key staffer in Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners’ history. I also served this district as a member of the staff in the Capitol Hill office of the late Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. This unique and pivotal professional experience gave me a unique perspective on how the legislative process in Congress works in order to get things done for those we are tasked to serve.
How familiar are you with Tamarac, and what in your view are the most significant challenges facing the city?
As the only candidate for Florida’s 20th Congressional District who is a regular fixture at local Tamarac events and activities, I have come to learn about the issues and challenges facing the city first hand from those who are directly impacted—the residents. To that end, I believe the following three issues are the most significant challenges facing “The City for Your Life”: Public confidence in the integrity of elected officials, poverty and crime, and protecting the elderly.
How do you plan to serve the residents of Tamarac?
I will advocate for increased federal funding for local community improvement and beautification projects to help protect and increase property values and reducing crime. Working with the city’s elected leaders, I will seek to identify community-supported projects that deserve federal funding support and use my authority to advocate for earmarks (that are currently allowable under House rules) to support those initiatives.
Additionally, I will host virtual and in-person town hall meetings in the City of Tamarac—on a regular basis—to ensure that residents are up to date and well informed of my efforts on their behalf to make their city and congressional district a better place to live and learn. The issue of equal pay for equal work is also a challenge that women in Tamarac face when it comes to equity in compensation.
Currently, men in Tamarac make more than 15 percent on average more than women do for the same job. I believe that this is wrong and should be outlawed through the passage of effective legislation like HR 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
How do you plan to serve the residents of Kings Point?
My first order of business in filling key staff positions will be the appointment of a staff person that will be dedicated to responding to the needs of homeowners associations. I will commit to hosting regular town hall meetings and forums at the Kings Point Club House to keep residents updated and informed of issues impacting them at the federal level.
As a member of Congress, I will work with the Kings Point HOA to identify infrastructure improvement projects within the community (such as drainage issues and road repairs) that may be eligible for earmark appropriations.
Why should residents of the district cast their vote for you?
As a first-time candidate for public office, I am not simply trying to climb another rung of the political ladder in greater service to myself and my friends. As a genuine servant leader, I am offering myself for service to the people as our next member of Congress. Furthermore, as an engaged private citizen, I have and will continue to remain committed to the values that seek to make America a “more perfect union.” I am not a career politician.
What are the top three issues facing the country?
Access to affordable healthcare and the expansion of Medicare/Medicaid. The urgent need for environmental, cultural, and climate change legislation. An increase in funding for affordable housing and homeless services.
What is the most important thing voters should know about you?
The most important thing that I want voters to know about me is that I am not a career politician. What sets me apart from all the other candidates is a lifetime history of selfless service to others and my willingness to provide honest and transparent representation that is responsible only to the people.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.