Hastings first rose to prominence in the mid-1960s when, just six months after he finished law school, he sued a Fort Lauderdale Holiday Inn that had denied him a room: Weeks later, the state Division of Hotels and Restaurants agreed to outlaw racial segregation in hotels across Broward County. Hastings and his law partner would spend the next several years filing lawsuits against racial segregation in local restaurant and schools.
Hastings ran for office at the age of 29 in 1970 in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Hastings, who received death threats during the contest, would acknowledge he didn’t think he could win, but said that he wanted to demonstrate that a Black candidate could run for this post. Hastings ended up taking fourth with 13% of the vote in the five-way field. Hastings would go on to become a Broward Circuit Court judge in 1977 and two years later, Jimmy Carter chose him to be the first African American to serve as a federal judge in Florida.
In 1981, though, Hastings was indicted for allegedly soliciting a $150,000 bribe. A jury found Hastings not guilty in 1983, but that wasn’t the end of his legal troubles. An appeals court committee eventually ruled that he had lied and tampered with evidence and recommended that Congress remove him from office. The House voted 413-3 to impeach him in 1988, and the Senate ousted him 69-26. Hastings, who always maintained his innocence, announced minutes later that he would run for governor in 1990, declaring that his mother “did not have anybody that was afraid of the system.”
Hastings instead ran for secretary of state that year, though. Florida at the time required a runoff in primaries where no candidate won a majority of the vote, a rule that would eventually be abolished in 2005: Hastings made it to the second round, but he lost by a lopsided 67-33. He was hardly deterred, however, and in 1992 he sought to join the body that had overwhelmingly voted to remove him from the bench by campaigning for what was then numbered Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, a heavily Black and safely Democratic seat in South Florida.
State Rep. Lois Frankel led the Democratic primary with 35% of the vote, while Hastings edged out state Rep. Bill Clark 28-27 for the second runoff spot. The second round was an ugly affair, with Hastings saying of his opponent, “The bitch is a racist.” Hastings himself would say of Frankel’s commercials, “She called me a crook, and I have no record anywhere in America of having a felony conviction.” He added, “I was removed administratively from my job, so how dare she call me a crook?”
Hastings got some welcome news weeks before the runoff when a federal judge ruled that the Senate had acted improperly by trying him before a panel of 12 members rather than the full Senate. Hastings went on to win the Democratic nomination 58-42, saying the ruling’s effect was “to catapult me beyond my opponent.”
That November, Hastings, along with fellow Democrats Corrine Brown and Carrie Meek, became the first African Americans elected to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction. Hastings, who never faced a close re-election campaign during his nearly three decades in Congress, would even go on to endorse Frankel in 2012 in her successful primary bid for a different House seat. Hastings said of their 1992 contest, “We buried the hatchet. That’s what grown people do.”
● OH-Sen: Democrat Amy Acton, who rose to prominence fighting the coronavirus pandemic as the director of Ohio’s state health department, has said no to a Senate bid. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine tapped Acton as his top health official in 2019, but she resigned in the middle of last year after GOP legislators introduced a bill to remove her emergency powers, saying she feared she might be forced to violate her oaths as a doctor.
Meanwhile, Republican businessman Bernie Moreno, who’d been considering a bid, entered the race on Tuesday. He joins former state GOP chair Jane Timken and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the primary, which could grow yet larger. Two other Republicans who expressed some interest shortly after Sen. Rob Portman announced his retirement in January, Rep. Bill Johnson and state Sen. Matt Dolan, both tell the conservative newsletter The Dispatch that they’re still thinking about running.
There were no surprises on either side in the gubernatorial contest. While there has been some speculation over the last few years that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy could draw a serious intra-party foe, only two perennial candidates ended up filing to take him on.
On the GOP side, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has looked like the heavy frontrunner ever since former state party chair Doug Steinhardt abruptly dropped out in January. While Ciattarelli lost the 2017 primary to then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno 47-31, he has the backing of the state’s powerful county party leaders for his second campaign.
The rest of the field consists of former Somerset County Commissioner Brian Levine, pastor Phil Rizzo, and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh (aka the guy who once filed an official financial disclosure that included a “;-)” wink emoticon), but none of them appear to have gained any serious traction.
New Jersey supported Joe Biden 57-41, and it will be very difficult for Republicans to deny Murphy a second term. We haven’t seen any horserace polls here all year, but a recent Stockton University survey gave Murphy a strong 58-36 approval rating.
● NV-Gov: North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who just the other day didn’t rule out switching parties to run for governor as a Republican, has now … switched parties. There’s no word yet as to whether Lee will fulfill the second part of this prophecy, though it’s not a surprise to see him change sides: During a long career in the legislature, he compiled a consistently conservative record, so much so that he got blasted almost two-to-one by a badly underfunded opponent in his 2012 primary, ending his service in the state Senate.
Lee bounced back the following year by defeating the incumbent mayor of North Las Vegas, the fourth largest city in the state, and won re-election in 2017. However, he’s repeatedly eyed bids for higher office but never taken the plunge. In 2011, he briefly ran for Nevada’s then-new 4th Congressional District but bailed after a few months only to get thumped in his re-election bid. He also looked at the seat in the 2016 cycle and the 2018 cycle but passed both times.
All of those dalliances came when Lee was a Democrat, and of course there’s no telling whether his new party will embrace him, though Lee was sure to say he’d voted for Donald Trump twice in a press release announcing his latest move.
● CA-25: Simi Valley City Councilwoman Ruth Luevanos announced a bid against Republican Rep. Mike Garcia in California’s 25th Congressional District on Tuesday, making her the second notable Democrat after former Assemblywoman Christy Smith to do so. Luevanos, the daughter of immigrants from Mexico, was the first Latina elected to the City Council in 2018 and emphasized her background as a union leader and teacher in her campaign kickoff. (Simi Valley, a city of 125,000, might be best known as the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.)
● MS-04: Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell says he’ll launch a primary challenge Wednesday to Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, who’s facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, located along the Gulf Coast, is safely red turf, having voted for Donald Trump 68-30 last year.
● NM-01: State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, the newly minted Democratic nominee in the June 1 special election for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, has released her first TV ad of the race, a generic introductory spot in which she touts her local roots and says she knows “what it’s like to not know how you’re going to make it to the end of the month.”
● SC-01, SC-07: Former Fox News host Eric Bolling, who’d reportedly been considering a primary challenge against two different South Carolina Republicans, Rep. Nancy Mace in the 1st District and Rep. Tom Rice in the 7th, now says he is “not planning to run for Congress in this cycle.”
● VA-01: Democrat Stewart Navarre, a retired Marine colonel and former pharmaceutical businessman, kicked off a campaign on Tuesday against veteran Republican Rep. Rob Wittman in Virginia’s 1st Congressional District. Wittman’s seat, which stretches along the Chesapeake Bay from the Washington, D.C. exurbs to the outskirts of the Richmond area, has been solidly red for many decades, but it moved sharply to the left last year: While Donald Trump carried it 54-41 in 2016, he prevailed just 51-47 last year.
If a similar district remains in place following the upcoming round of redistricting and the same trends continue, Democrats could therefore make a play. The region also has a large military presence, which could make Navarre’s profile a good fit. Wittman, however, has never won an election by less than double digits and defeated Democrat Qasim Reed 58-42, one of the best performances by a Republican compared to the top of the ticket in 2020.
● Atlanta, GA Mayor: Attorney Sharon Gay, who serves as managing partner of the Atlanta office of the multinational law firm Dentons, last week filed campaign paperwork for a potential bid against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Gay has not yet said anything publicly, though volunteer spokesperson Angelo Fuster declared, “She’s heard enough about the widespread frustration with the current mayor.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also writes that Fuster relayed that “Gay’s preliminary fundraising will gauge the size of her support.”
Bottoms, who has the endorsement of President Joe Biden, already faces City Council President Felicia Moore in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan race. A second round would take place on Nov. 30 should no one earn a majority of the vote.
● Boston, MA Mayor: Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Tuesday that she would seek a full term this year. Janey, who is Black, became the first woman or person of color to lead Boston last month when Mayor Marty Walsh resigned to become secretary of labor, and she would also make history if she won this fall.
Janey, who remains a member of the City Council, faces a crowded field that includes state Rep. Jon Santiago and John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief, as well as three of her colleagues: Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu. In a sign of just how much politics have changed in Boston over the last decade, all of these contenders are also people of color.
Janey has $248,000 on-hand as of the end of March, which puts her behind most of her rivals, though her high profile post gives her the chance to catch up. Campbell leads the field with $974,000 in the bank, while Wu was just behind with $941,000. Santiago and Essaibi George had $525,000 and $426,000 to spend, respectively, while Barros had $228,000 banked.
Filing closes on May 18, so it’s possible the field will continue to expand: There’s no doubt, though, that all the serious candidates will be Democrats in this very blue city. All the candidates will face off in September in an officially nonpartisan race known locally as the “preliminary election.” The two contenders with the most votes will then advance to a November face-off.
● San Antonio, TX Mayor: The local firm Bexar Facts, polling on behalf of KSAT and San Antonio Report, is out with the first survey we’ve seen of the May 1 nonpartisan contest, and it shows progressive Mayor Ron Nirenberg leading conservative Greg Brockhouse 56-21. That would be a huge change from their first bout two years ago, when Nirenberg held off the now-former city councilman 51-49 in a runoff. A second round would take place if no one won a majority of the vote next month.
● Where Are They Now?: Former one-term Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost a difficult re-election bid for Florida’s 26th Congressional District last year, has joined the gun-safety organization Giffords, which was founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords. When she was 24 years old, Mucarsel-Powell’s father was shot and killed in her native country of Ecuador, a story she recounted in a TV ad for her first congressional campaign in 2018.