Most people living in the congressional district represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are “uneducated,” a Miami Beach commissioner seeking the seat said this week during a candidates’ forum.
“There’s a perception that this is a very wealthy district. Out of the 740,000 people, only about 190,000 have college degrees, 90,000 have graduate degrees,” said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. “But the vast majority of people in this district are uneducated.”
Rosen Gonzalez, one of eight Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in August, made the comment during a Tuesday evening forum for the women seeking to represent Florida’s 27th congressional district. The event was moderated by Nancy Ancrum, editor of the Miami Herald Editorial Board, which quoted the latter part of the candidate’s statement on its Twitter account.
Rosen Gonzalez, who was responding to a question about the district’s biggest challenges, said Thursday that she meant to say “under-educated.” Still, she says the tweet, which was deleted Thursday morning, took her comments out of context.
“It’s disappointing when the Miami Herald pulls a truly thoughtful and empirical observation out of context. My only intention is to improve and serve our community and the person who tweeted that knows that,” she said. “Shame on that person.”
Ancrum said Thursday afternoon that the tweet was pulled from the Editorial Board’s Twitter account when “we saw the words being skewed on social media, and thought that the quote was incomplete.”
“However,” she said, “the quote is accurate and factual.”
Census figures from 2016 show that the district — a vast swath of Miami-Dade that includes most of the county’s coastal communities and a bulk of the urban core south of the Dolphin Expressway — has a population of 747,000. Two-thirds of that population are 25 or older, and of that group 37.5 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, a number slightly above the national average.
More than 84 percent hold a high school diploma, according to Census data.
Rosen Gonzalez said that by “uneducated” she meant “inadequately educated for the current job market.” She said she’s come to that conclusion through her experience as a tenured Miami Dade College professor and while pursuing a Ph.D in higher education administration at Barry University. She said she has also knocked on thousands of doors in the district.
“We can take my information and use it to improve the community or we can attack it,” she said. “Do you want to know the challenges, or have a politician who’s going to sugar-coat it or not tell you what she’s seen?”
Since her election in 2015 to the Miami Beach City Commission, Rosen Gonzalez has earned a reputation as one of South Florida’s more plain-spoken politicians, a trait that has earned her both positive and negative attention. For instance, she once told Miami Beach’s city manager that the city ought to “give cops back their bullets” and remove their body cameras following a Memorial Day weekend shooting.
Toward the beginning of Tuesday’s forum, she alluded to her ability to say the wrong thing.
“I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth several times,” she said. “But I will tell you, the next day I wake up, if I need to apologize I apologize and I move on.”