DESPITE LACK OF RESULTS, ESKAMANI POISED FOR RE-ELECTION
May 3, 2020
By FRANCISCO GONZALEZ
State Representative Anna Eskamani is completing her first term in the Florida House this year. She arrived on the scene as a force of the progressive movement in 2018, even landing as one of a few dozen women featured on the cover of TIME magazine as a first-time woman candidate. As a former pro-abortion lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, she also positioned herself as a champion of the worker: taking on minimum wage laws, advocating for paid leave, and holding corporations accountable. She has also promoted and defended alternative lifestyles: from championing gay rights to allowing people to define their own gender, and even yelling about “toxic masculinity” during anti-Trump rallies in downtown Orlando.
A quick glance at the “About Anna” section of her website gives an example of her long involvement in the Orlando community, where she was born and raised, as a child of Iranian immigrants. I hear little stories about Anna in the community that make me more and more aware that she does smart community-building things all the time. Recently, she sent a personal congratulatory letter to every family whose child was a part of a successful Orlando little league team.
However, as a candidate, Anna Eskamani has not been without controversy. In 2018, she joined protesters for a “die in” at a local Orlando Publix, laying on the shopping aisles in the middle of a busy shopping day to protest Publix’s support of Adam Putnam – simply because Putnam was supported by the National Rifle Association, making them guilty by association. Eskamani and her friends in the gun control movement wanted to make an example of Publix. And it worked: for a few months, Publix halted all political fundraising. After the spotlight was off them, they returned to their donations to Florida politicians across the political spectrum.
This past year, Eskamani also targeted any Florida corporations that supported the Step Up For Students scholarship program, which provides opportunities for low-income families to send their children to schools of their choice. This includes private Christian schools which do not believe in same-sex marriage and do not have the transgender policies that Eskamani and some of her more progressive allies in the legislature think they should. Once again, if a corporation or organization does not fit the progressive cookie cutter agenda, Eskamani targets them, despite the long-held American principle of freedom of association.
Fortunately, for the 150,000 low-income students, mostly from black and Hispanic backgrounds, Eskamani was not successful. While a few corporations were bullied by her, most of those that held their funding, eventually came back to Step Up For Students after the smoke cleared. Even some of her Democratic colleagues stood up against her.
Representative Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat from Jacksonville, claimed Eskamani and her progressive allies in the legislature, Carlos Guillermo-Smith and Cindy Polos “bullied” her and other Democrats on issues such as educational choice and parental notification on abortion. Daniels stood her ground and said, “I will not back down from people who are merely activist motivated and not true policy makers in my opinion … This is a message to the Anna Eskamanis and the Cindy Polos, who are so far left they have been left behind ... the best thing they can do is tweet and get likes and undermine other elected officials with bogus media attempts.”
And that’s where Eskamani is really active: on social media. While she is supposed to be representing the interests of her constituents in Orlando, she is often focused on issues at the national level that state lawmakers have little to no input on – perhaps trying to be the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, without the pedestal of a Congressional seat. She is also funded by Soros-backed groups and some might claim she simply turned from an actual lobbyist on Planned Parenthood’s payroll to one that now lobbies for their interest from her seat in House District 47.
HD47 was previously held by a Republican, Mike Miller, from 2014-2018. He vacated it for an unsuccessful run for a Congressional seat held by Stephanie Murphy.
While HD47 was arguably trending to the left of a Republican like Mike Miller, Eskamani is as far left as a lawmaker can get and is clearly too far left for this district. And yet she not only won by a clear margin in 2018 over Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves but is set for a clear path to victory in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown has sucked away all of the attention from virtually every political race in this country, especially in down-ballot races such as a state house district. While incumbents are strongly favored in almost any election cycle, it is going to be even more difficult for any non-incumbent to win in 2020.
With that being said, why has it been so difficult for Republicans to field a high-quality candidate, with good name ID, strong community ties, and the ability to fundraise to compete with Anna Eskamani? Statewide, the Republican Party is very well-positioned in funding and a deep bench of candidates, yet there has been little to no investment in HD47 by the local or statewide party to find a strong candidate and propel them to victory – or at least a competitive race, which might helppersuade Eskamani to cool it with her tactics and move a little more to the center as a legislator.
In 2020, there are currently two Republican candidates hoping to win their primary to face Eskamani in November. However, very few Republican voters have even heard of them.
Jeremy Sisson came out of the gates in late 2019 with an impressive website, billing himself as “a seasoned entrepreneur, small business owner, commercial real estate expert and philanthropic community leader,” as well as a “political outsider.” Word on the street has it that he hobnobbed in Tallahassee but made no serious fundraising effort while Eskamani was prevented from fundraising during the legislative session.
Kevin Miles Morenski, a criminal defense attorney, just declared his candidacy a few weeks ago and is supporting an immediate reopening of the Florida economy after the shutdowns caused by the public health concerns of the COVID19 pandemic. While no political website could be found, he appears very concerned about the growing homelessness problem in Orlando, tweeting photos of drugged-out homeless people on the streets: “Your district @AnnaForFlorida. We are well on our way to becoming San Francisco.”
While many Republicans are clearly concerned that this district is trending the way of San Francisco – on so many levels – there does not yet seem to be a well-funded, organized effort to recruit a candidate with strong name identification who is willing to run against far-left progressive Anna Eskamani. Perhaps they are afraid of her aggressive, bullhorn tactics. Or perhaps there just isn’t anyone willing to do the job.
The saving grace for Florida conservatives is that Eskamani isn’t a particularly effective legislator. She holds a lot of press conferences, tweets incessantly, and loves to rail against Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis. But she hasn’t led any meaningful legislation or brought anything back to her district in Orlando to make her standout in terms of results. The downsideof this for all people in Orlando is she isn’t doing anything meaningful to represent the broader community of which she was born and raised. The “representative” ahead of her name has become about as meaningless as the gender pronouns she puts on her business card.
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