Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother’s Day: thoughts on SCHIP from Annette Taddeo

Annette Taddeo with Sophie, 2

On Mother’s Day, what better than to talk about a mother’s love for her children. And here is a mother with tender thoughts about her 2-year-old daughter, and about her own mother, and how it translates into a run for Congress against steep odds.

This is about Annette Taddeo, who is running against an 18-year Republican incumbent in Florida’s 18th District, which includes a big chunk of Miami and Miami Beach and down to the end of the Florida Keys. I live in the district and, since her campaign launch in February, have seen her talk several times about what drove her into this race. Her talk has gotten better and better, and more personal each time.

She may be referring to the scars left from being born with a cleft lip, but this listener is becoming an admirer of the steel in her character.

In a meeting Saturday with four South Florida bloggers, she did not hesitate to answer when asked if it had been difficult to start talking about her birth defect. “Not easy,” she said, and in fact she hadn’t talked about it in public before this campaign. She and her husband, Eric Goldstein, a sports psychologist and motivational speaker, had discussed it at length, she said, on how to use it to buttress her case against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s repeated votes against expanding children’s health insurance.

Now this aspect of Taddeo’s life is laid out in her stump talks and on her web site (click on "About Annette"), as part of her world view that good childhood health care is essential. “I don’t like it that they are playing politics with kids’ lives,” she told us bloggers.

A few days earlier, at an open house to launch her headquarters, she told supporters that she opposed the Iraq war and Ros-Lehtinen had always backed it, but that hadn’t made up her mind to enter the race. “But her votes over and over and over against expanding children’s health care – that for me was the ultimate straw that broke the camel’s back. And as I look at my daughter, I am so glad to have a healthy daughter. And my mother, I want to thank her because she took care of me from the time I was born. I was born with a cleft lip, and now that I see babies that are born that way, I just can’t imagine, as the loving mother that I am, what it’s like to have an ill child and how you’d do anything for them. .. In the richest country in the world there are parents who have to choose between taking their children to the doctor or paying the rent … That’s unacceptable in a country where we spend 250 million dollars a day for the war in Iraq but we refuse to spend for healthy children. So when my opponent voted against children, that was what made my ultimate decision that this was the right thing to do, the right time to do it.”

She is raising money at a good rate and putting her own wealth into the campaign – “It goes to show that I am invested,” she told the bloggers. This cost her $180,000 in the first quarter, giving her a total of $321,000 raised, well past Ros-Lehtinen’s $115,000, though the incumbent has a fat treasury of $1.7 million.

For Taddeo, this translates into a vigorous and experienced professional staff, and she believes the district is ripe for a change, even though conventional wisdom puts it in safe Republican territory. Polling is “amazingly good,” she said, and “over 70 percent of the district was ready to vote for an unnamed Democrat – I was shocked.”

Ros-Lehtinen was the first Cuban-American woman elected to the House and she serves with the equally Cuban brothers, Lincoln Diaz-Balart of District 21 and Mario Diaz-Balart of District 25, as a sort of unitary trio of right-wing stalwarts. Interestingly, the three broke with the Republicans in Congress last week and voted with the Democrats on the homeowner rescue bill. It passed 266 to 154, though President Bush has threatened a veto, and it may not do so well in the Senate. Florida has one of the worst foreclosure situations in the country, and the state’s congressional delegation has been under pressure to take action. As recently as the end of March Lincoln Diaz-Balart was on record as uncertain what to do. Now all three Miami Republicans voted on the Democratic side, though that may be only a tactical shift since the Bush veto could decide the issue the other way. Seven of Florida’s 16 Republicans in the House voted with the Democrats.

Taddeo comes from a strong business background in making her first run for office. She founded a language services company that has prospered and she has held leadership positions in the Chamber of Commerce. She believes this will fend off any accusations that she’s a tax-and-spend liberal.


Anonymous said...
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Larry Thorson said...

That removed post, by the way, apparently came from a spam merchant. It was not removed because of its political content.