August 3, 2014

Frederica Wilson draws primary opponent who says he’s more liberal

The 31-year-old elected North Miami city clerk who is running against Frederica Wilson in the 24th congressional district says that his candidacy is about making a point: Wilson is not liberal enough.

Even the man trying to unseat Congresswoman Frederica Wilson admits he faces no easy task.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult to defeat her,” said Michael Etienne, who is running in the Aug. 26 primary against Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat and one of South Florida’s best known politicians (She likes to wear hats.).

The 24th congressional district extends from Miramar to Brickell, including Opa-locka, Miami Shores and Little Haiti.

Two candidates — Dufirstson Julio Neree, a Republican, and Luis E. Fernandez, running without political-party affiliation — await in the November general election, though Democrats are practically assured a victory in the solidly left-leaning district.

Etienne, the 31-year-old elected North Miami city clerk, has not raised any campaign funds, spending nearly $20,000 of his own money to qualify for the ballot and pay for a smattering of advertising. Wilson has raked in more than $277,000, mostly from deep-pocketed political action committees, many of them representing labor unions.

But Etienne said his candidacy is about making a point that Wilson — despite being a dependable backer of President Barack Obama — is not, in Etienne’s view, liberal enough. He rattled off a list of her votes with which he disagreed, including authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Libya and failing to limit the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans.

He also noted that while Wilson opposed free-trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia, she missed the actual votes on the House floor. Her office has said she was having minor surgery at the time.

Wilson, 71, has not visibly campaigned for reelection. She laughed off the suggestion that she’s anything but what she calls “a progressive liberal” who has championed the reunification of Haitian immigrant families, fought for federal funding for South Florida’s seaports and taken part in Obama’s initiative to bolster opportunities for young black and Hispanic boys.

“I would hope that my constituents in District 24 would give me the opportunity to continue the good work that I’ve started in Congress,” she said.

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