If — big if — Dems win, Florida’s Ted Deutch is poised to assume power

MIAMI HERALD OP-ED


BY MIKE ABRAMS
mike@ballardfl.com

JULY 17, 2017 7:53 PM
 

There is growing hope among congressional Democrats that President Trump’s historic unpopularity and the ongoing Russian investigations may allow them to retake control of the U.S. House. Republicans have a 246-187 edge in members, so a swing of 30 seats is what the Democrats would need in the 2018 elections.

In Miami-Dade County, there are two seats the Democrats can pick up. Should the Democrats regain control of the House, the most important Democrat in Florida you may never have heard of will be Rep. Ted Deutch, whose district encompasses parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Before running for the Florida Senate in 2006, Deutch was a successful lawyer for a large firm. In the state Senate, he quickly gained bipartisan respect for his evenhanded approach to legislation and his accessibility. In 2010, when then-U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector, Deutch was the logical choice to be his successor.

Upon election to Congress, Deutch chose to be a “workhorse,” that is, a new member of Congress who chooses to methodically earn respect among his peers by learning policy and demonstrating expertise. For example, he has become an ardent proponent of campaign finance reform and is the lead Democrat on the Udall-Deutch Constitutional Amendment to remove big money from politics. Deutch is an expert on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, where he has introduced legislation to strengthen U.S. copyright and patent systems.


It’s not sexy, but it is the kind of hard work that fellow members respect. Deutch’s commitment to bipartisanship extends to climate change. With Miami’s Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Deutch created the Climate Solutions Caucus, which has an even number of Republicans and Democrats working on the dangers of climate change.

However, it is Deutch’s role as the ranking Democrat on the Middle Eastern Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that has begun to elevate his public profile, especially among the influential pro-Israeli donors in America. Deutch’s fingerprints can be found on several Iran sanctions bills as they moved through Congress as well as leading efforts to apply sanctions on Hezbollah. For pro-Israeli hardliners, his vote against President Obama on lifting the Iranian embargo solidified his standing in the community. For moderate Jewish voters, there is an acceptance of Deutch’s vote because he is viewed as a man of principle.

In the current political environment, it is not enough to just have a good inside game. You also have to develop a public profile and, of course, have the ability to raise money for the party reelection committees and other candidates. In recent days, Deutch has been popping up more regularly on CNN and MSNBC. He even appeared on Morning Joe, taking on President Trump’s foreign policy.

It was interesting to note that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s most recent fundraiser in South Florida was first scheduled in Deutch’s territory, with Miami added later. A little tea leaf like that sometimes often signals whose star is rising. The fundraiser was apparently an enormous success, reportedly raising more than $300,000.

I am not alone in my distaste for the Democratic Party continuing to recycle the same leadership that has led to repeated defeats. Notwithstanding my recent oped on Pelosi’s losing ways, I will take it as a hopeful sign that Pelosi tapped Deutch to be the ranking member of the sensitive House Ethics committee, the same committee now investigating House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for allegedly leaking classified information.

Years ago, frustrated with the pace of Congress, Deutch was considering other political options. Now that he has decided that he has the requisite patience to pursue leadership in the House, the stars may be aligning for him. The hope is that there will be a cohort of other younger Democrats around the country joining him after the 2018 elections.

 

MIKE ABRAMS IS FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE DADE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, A FORMER STATE LEGISLATOR AND CURRENTLY A POLICY ADVISER TO BALLARD PARTNERS.