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Boxer, port commissioner challenge Alcee Hastings

A former heavyweight boxing champion and a port commissioner are challenging U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in the Democratic primary in a black-majority district that stretches across the Everglades.

District 20 — which includes parts of Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Pompano Beach, Tamarac, West Palm Beach, Belle Glade and Hendry County — is one of the most Democratic in Florida.

The challengers, Jameel McCline and Jean Enright, both say the district needs a more active representative deeply engaged in the local community.

"[Hastings] has been in office for 21 years, and things are still the same," McCline said. "We don't see much of Al. Many people have told me, `I've never seen my congressman come to my door.'"

Without mentioning Hastings by name, Enright said: "It is vitally important for representatives to be visible in their districts so they truly understand the issues of the people and can better address their needs in Washington."

But Hastings, a former judge who now serves on the influential House Rules Committee, touts his service to constituents as the main reason to re-elect him.

Trapped in a deadlocked U.S. House controlled by Republicans, Hastings and many Democratic colleagues have focused on solving individual problems, knowing they have little chance of enacting legislation.

Hastings cites his 50 years of public service "in every aspect of the community you can think of. And in that sense, I think I am deserving [of re-election.]

"I really do move around the district an awful lot. What both of my opponents do not understand is that there's a lot of distance between Riviera Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Clewiston, and they would have no way of understanding all the things that I do. I believe the constituency would register the fact that I am on the ground."

Hastings' main campaign theme is to expand voter turnout in the November general election by 3 percent over the turnout in the 2012 presidential election. Democrats generally do better in presidential election years, when larger numbers of minorities and younger voters cast ballots. Any increase in this year's mid-term election would be extraordinary.

But first, Hastings must defeat his Democratic rivals in the primary.

McCline, who served five years in prison on a stolen-gun charge two decades ago, presents himself as a redeemed champion of the disadvantaged who overcame hard knocks to become a successful business consultant and TV sports commentator.

He promises to fight for an increased minimum wage, funding for job training and spending on roads and bridges to create more jobs.

"I'll stand up to Big Oil," the former boxer tells voters, while stressing development of solar power.

Enright, an elected commissioner at the Port of Palm Beach, is campaigning "for real change in Washington, not deadlock. There needs to be a unified voice between the local communities and their congressional representatives."

She stresses job creation and economic development, especially in the most impoverished areas.

"We also need to address Social Security to ensure its future funding not only for those already receiving benefits but for everyone who is contributing to the program," Enright said.

The primary winner will face Republican Jay Alan Bonner in the general election.

Wgibson@Tribune.com, 202-824-8256

Jean Enright

Age: 58

Family: Widowed, two children

Residence: Riviera Beach

Education: Bachelor's degree, Tuskegee University, 1977; Master's degree, Howard University, 1979; Doctorate, The Catholic University of America, 1986

Occupation: Port administration

Political career: Elected commissioner at Port of Palm Beach; Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee

Campaign coffers: $38,533 raised at end of second quarter

Top three non-newspaper endorsements: None

Alcee Hastings

Age: 77

Family: Divorced; three children

Residence: Miramar

Education: Bachelor's degree, Fisk University, 1958; law degree, Florida A&M University, 1963

Occupation: Lawyer, former circuit judge and federal district court judge

Public career: U.S. House, 1993 to present

Campaign coffers: $472,605 raised through second quarter

Top three non-newspaper endorsements: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton

Jameel McCline

Age: 44

Family: Engaged, three children

Residence: Delray Beach

Education: No college degrees

Occupation: Former boxer; business and sports consultant

Political career: First run for office

Campaign coffers: $67,910 raised through second quarter

Top three non-newspaper endorsements: Florida Fraternal Order of Police

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