Jan Schneider, Democratic Candidate Versus Katherine Harris for Florida's 13th District
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Jan Schneider is running against Katherine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State who stopped the voter recount in Florida in 2000 and certified the theft of the presidential election. Florida's 13th District has an opportunity to elect Schneider, a brilliant lawyer and advocate, who will fight for her constituents, and not wealthy campaign donors.
Schneider's endorsement from the Herald Tribune in the 13th District:
The paper endorsed Katherine Harris four times in previous elections for public office. Now the paper believes differently. The Herald Tribune stated on October 20th about the past endorsements of Harris, "The recommendations were made with reservations, sometimes with trepidation, but always in the hope that experience would help Harris...That hope vanished as the mistakes and misjudgments that plagued Harris' years in public office continued right through her confounding resignation as secretary of state." The Herald Tribune concluded, "We think Schneider would, if elected, be better positioned to represent the interests of everyone in District 13th."
Jan Schneider graduated from Yale Law School in the same class as Bill and Hillary Clinton. She also holds a Ph.D. in political science (international relations) from Yale. She has worked on numerous campaigns, including Bill Clinton's presidential races in 1992 and 1996, and Hillary Clinton's Senate race in 2000. With the House separated by only six seats, Schneider's campaign run against Harris is a crucial race. Rather than sitting back and letting Katherine Harris get rewarded for blocking the democratic process with a Congressional seat handed to her from the Republican Party, Ms. Schneider decided to fight back, and challenge Harris in the 13th District. BuzzFlash is honored to bring you our interview with Ms. Schneider. Go Jan Go!
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BUZZFLASH: Why are you more qualified to represent the people of Florida's 13th District than Katherine Harris, the former Secretary of State?
JAN SCHNEIDER: I care about the people in my district. And I did not wish them and their voices to be ignored after the fiasco of election 2000 and what it represented. There are real issues in this district. We have all the issues we had before September 10th of last year, and a whole lot of new ones. And I think that the people of this district deserve a voice and to be heard about their concerns. I'm prepared to listen to them and I have been listening to them.
BUZZFLASH: Why was there not greater opposition to the fact that Ms. Harris, who was head of the George Bush election campaign in Florida, was also the one to certify the votes in the 2000 presidential election? Why wasn't there more of a call for her to recuse herself when the election was clearly mishandled?
SCHNEIDER: Well, there was a call, which Ms. Harris refused to heed. It's one thing to be elected as a representative of the party, and another to serve as the co-chair in the state of a Presidential campaign. I think that was a major mistake. And whether or not it was legal, the people challenged it. It destroyed people's confidence in the process.
BUZZFLASH: Greg Palast, an American reporter for BBC Newsnight, reported that 57,000 people -- mostly African-Americans who could legally vote -- were removed from the voter rolls due to a policy of Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris to root out felons in the voting system. Harris and Bush basically blocked thousands of democratic voters who could legally vote from participating in the electoral process. Are you aware of his research and reporting? (See: http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/2002/03/Greg_Palast_031102.html)
SCHNEIDER: I was a legal volunteer during the Palm Beach recount. I did affidavits, primarily African-Americans. Some of the people with whom we spoke were Hispanic, although the Hispanic affidavits were often handled by people who spoke Spanish, which I do not anymore. But, as to your question about targeting certain voters, yes I believe that to be true -- whether deliberate or incompetent, who can say?
The same abuses are continuing. For example, did Ms. Harris recuse herself from any insider knowledge or participation in the redistricting process, including her own district? Did she recuse herself from ruling on the qualifications of people in her district? Those issues are, in my mind, continuing examples of a lack of judgment that clouds and undermines people's faith in our electoral process.
BUZZFLASH: Speaking of incompetence, Ms. Harris was supposed to have resigned as the Secretary of State in order to run for office in a Congressional election, but she failed to do so. She sort of resigned and dated it two weeks retroactively. It seemed that even she didn't understand her state's own election laws, even though she is in charge of certifying and overseeing elections.
SCHNEIDER: Well, it's known as the "Resign to Run Law." And what it's designed to do is give other people a chance to run for the seat. When you qualify, you have to resign, so in the same election other people can run for the office you're vacating. In her case she was supposed to have resigned as of the date of taking the new office. Of course, to me, Ms. Harris' conduct was astonishing. She's the chief elections officer. It's a very simple law. The rest of us clearly checked and crossed every "t" and dotted every "i" that was in our qualifying papers. And you'd think reasonable proof would dictate doing this.
BUZZFLASH: Right. It just goes to show incompetence. It's her job to know that. And for her not to know is clearly an example of someone with gross oversight when it comes to important issues.
Let me ask you a couple questions about Florida. First of all, why is it that Florida is struggling so much with their state election process? And of course, I'm referencing the Democratic gubernatorial primary between Ms. Reno and Mr. McBride, as well as the 2000 general election. What's going on in Florida that these problems keep persisting?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I'm not sure. There may be a lot of other states with problems. The spotlight has been focused so much more on Florida because it mattered so much in the last election. Outdated machines or outdated methods contributed to it. Now, with all that having been said, a lot of the fault in the last election was human error in the Secretary of State's office.
BUZZFLASH: Florida is an interesting state. As we know from the 2000 election, it really is one of the battleground states between Democrats and Republicans. And of course, part of that is directly personal. Jeb Bush's run for re-election is key to the Republican Party. Jeb losing would be a colossal embarrassment to the Bush family and Republicans. You are running against Katherine Harris, who essentially did whatever she could to aid the Bush campaign. What are your thoughts about Florida being at the crossroads -- in the crosshairs, if you will -- between the Democratic and Republican parties?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I agree with you first on Jeb Bush. But also, we're closely divided in a big, populated state. With the way the demographics are, and the number of electoral votes, Florida is very important to the Democrats and Republicans. We're a state with a peculiar mix, a Republican Legislature, but, the last time I looked, statewide, we had more registered Democrats than Republicans. There are a lot of factors that make Florida a battleground state that goes beyond just Jeb Bush. But obviously it's a barometer, too.
BUZZFLASH: What would you say are the issues that separate you and Ms. Harris the most?
SCHNEIDER: First of all, it's very hard to figure out where she stands on any issue, because she really hasn't explained -- except in thirty-second commercials -- where she stands herself.
I think where we are divided the most is on social programs -- for me, people are the huge priority. I think that the values Ms. Harris propounds, as reflected in things like the Bush tax cut and other measures, are disproportionately skewered toward benefiting the wealthy. We disagree on that.
My platform is based on protecting Social Security, providing affordable health care and drug prescription benefits to families and our seniors, protecting the environment, and improving our schools.
I'm not sure what her platform is. It's very hard to answer your question, because if I ask you, for example, is Ms. Harris pro-choice or anti-choice, can you even answer that?
BUZZFLASH: I cannot.
SCHNEIDER: I cannot either. I thought she was anti-choice, which is what she seems to say in DeSoto and Hardee counties. But if you talk to her staff and you're in Sarasota, which is more liberal, coastal, they say, oh, well, she has a lot of pro-choice sympathies. I don't know the answer to that simple question.
On foreign affairs, the answer she gives to every question is that our President knows what is best to do; we should trust our President and his advisors; and they have information we don't have. For example, that's her answer to questions on Iraq or the anti-ballistic weapons defense system. To me, the Congress has a responsibility, and the American voters have a right and responsibility, to ask questions. So it's basic approaches to government and democracy. And I'm not trying to duck your question. It's just that I'm finding it very difficult to understand where she is on a number of issues.
BUZZFLASH: I know that George Bush has spent significant time in Florida raising money for his brother. And winning Florida again to the Bush family is very important in terms of a PR victory. A loss would be catastrophic for them. So there's an incredible amount of fundraising going on. Is Ms. Harris being allocated or assisted by the Bush machine in terms of funneling money into her campaign that you know of?
SCHNEIDER: I assume so, but I only know what I see on the FEC website, like everybody else. I haven't been concerned with that aspect. I'm more concerned with the pharmaceutical industry contribution to her campaign -- those kinds of things which we find on the website. I'm disturbed with the total amount of her fundraising and all the political favors she's going to owe -- it's $2.6 million, and I'm sure it's more than that by now. The question is, who will Ms. Harris represent, the people of Florida or the wealthy donors to her campaign? It's an astonishingly excessive amount for a Congressional campaign in this district. She's already spent, according to her website, I think it was well upwards of a million and a half on a primary against an opponent who spent $6,000. His name was John Hill, and he was a local anchor on one of our local cable TV channels.
BUZZFLASH: Please tell our BuzzFlash readers a little bit about yourself and why you're running?
SCHNEIDER: This is truly a crusade for principles. I have worked on many, many campaigns. I never intended to be a candidate. I'm a lawyer. As I said, I graduated from Yale Law School in 1973. I have a Ph.D. in political science and international relations from Yale as well. I've been more interested in studying politics and working for other people, working with the Congress. I hadn't intended to run. But I couldn't sit back and watch Ms. Harris get rewarded for handing the 2000 election to Bush and preventing the people of Florida from having a fair recount of their votes. I was a legal volunteer in Palm Beach during the recount in Election 2000. I'm running to give the people of Florida's 13th District a voice, and be an advocate and a fighter on their behalf.
BUZZFLASH: The House is separated by six seats. Historically the Democrats should retake it. What are your thoughts in terms of the Democrats winning back the House, with the talk of war with Iraq obscuring the domestic agenda? How difficult will it be for the Democrats to take back the House in 2002?
SCHNEIDER: I've gotten several calls, including from several Congressional offices, that by their calculation the whole Congress could come down to this seat, because it's the only sleeper they can find left. I think it means one that could go either way. It's already a high-pressure race. I started it in principle. I'm convinced it's winnable. I believe the voters in the 13th District will have their voices heard, and we will be proud to have been a part of returning the House to the Democrats.
BUZZFLASH: Ms. Schneider, I don't think we have to tell you how much we hope you win. Best of luck in the campaign, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
SCHNEIDER: Thank you Buzz.
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See Jan Schneider's web site at http://www.schneiderforcongress.com
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