National Politics

Florida U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings announces he has pancreatic cancer

Alcee Hastings, center, takes an Instagram selfie with Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum supporters just before the Souls to the Polls March in Fort Lauderdale in August.
Alcee Hastings, center, takes an Instagram selfie with Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum supporters just before the Souls to the Polls March in Fort Lauderdale in August. Sun Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Broward County Democrat and the longest-serving member of Congress from Florida, announced Monday afternoon that he has pancreatic cancer and is undergoing treatment in Washington at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hastings, 82, said he feels optimistic about his prognosis.

“I was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in the midst of this traumatizing news, I found myself wondering not only if I would survive this disease, but also if it would impact my ability to perform my duties,” Hastings said in a statement. “Now that I have begun treatment, I feel hopeful about survival and about my ability to continue serving my constituents of Florida’s 20th Congressional district and the nation.”

The recent diagnosis hasn’t affected his attendance in Congress much. Hastings voted every day since the new Congress began on January 3rd, though he did miss three votes on the afternoon of January 9th.

“The people of South Florida have been fortunate to have ⁦ fighting⁩ for them for decades,” Broward Rep. Ted Deutch tweeted. “Now let’s be there for him in this fight.”

In an interview with the Miami Herald on Friday, Hastings, known for his colorful criticism of President Donald Trump, blasted the president’s handling of the ongoing government shutdown. He also talked with Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney about bringing climate change experts to testify in Washington before Florida’s congressional delegation.

“Do the visual of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands losing their hospitals, do the visual of a whole town obliterated in fire and now he’s going to come and say because a handful of people are trying to come to this country that’s a national emergency?” Hastings said when asked about Trump reportedly considering disaster relief funds to build a border wall. “Come on.”

Hastings was elected to Congress in 1992, the first elected African-American congressman from Florida since Reconstruction. He represents a left-leaning majority-minority district that includes Miramar, Fort Lauderdale and parts of West Palm Beach. Hastings was a federal judge from 1979 through 1989, losing his seat after being impeached for bribery and perjury by the House of Representatives and convicted by the U.S. Senate. He easily won reelection in 2018 after defeating a little-known primary challenger and a write-in candidate.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly to nearby organs. It is seldom detected in its early stages.” The National Institutes of Health’s statistics show that 8.5 percent of men and women diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. survived 5 years or more from 2008-2014.

“My doctors have stated that the advancement in the treatment of cancer is evolutionary and the success rates continue to climb resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number of cancer-related deaths,” Hastings said. “I have been convinced that this is a battle worth fighting, and my life is defined by fighting battles worth fighting. Should it become clear that this cancer which has invaded my body cannot be defeated, I will tell you so.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
Alex Daugherty is the Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald, covering South Florida from the nation’s capital. Previously, he worked as the Washington correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and for the Herald covering politics in Miami.