By: Anthony Mann, Sun Sentinel
Three weeks after Barbara Sharief lost a campaign for Florida Senate, she said Tuesday she’d seek the same seat in 2024.
The Aug. 23 election — in which Sharief was trounced — was the most bitterly fought summer contest in Broward County. “I’m very confident that this time will be [a victory]. I’m looking forward to running again,” Sharief said in a phone interview.
“It’s an open seat. It’s someplace where people know me. I’ve proven that by the election results,” she said — pointing to the 25,000 votes she received in August. Sharief received 39.7% of the vote to 60.3% for the winner, state Sen. Lauren Book.
Even though this year’s attempt wasn’t successful, Sharief said it “puts me at a great starting point” for 2024. “My name ID is great. My positives are good. I’m feeling very confident about it.”
Sharief is the first, but likely won’t be the only, 2024 candidate in the 35th state Senate District, which lies mostly south of Interstate 595 and west of Florida’s Turnpike, entirely within Broward County.
The Aug. 20, 2024, primary is 101 weeks away, so there’s plenty of time for other candidates. Book can’t run again because of term limits; open seats often attract large fields of candidates.
State Rep. Marie Woodson, D-Hollywood, and Chad Klitzman, who narrowly lost the 2020 Democratic primary for Broward supervisor of elections, are among the possible candidates.
Sharief said a contested primary doesn’t faze her. “I’ve never been worried about running a race. I’ve run my race very effectively. Whoever wants to challenge, let them challenge. That’s not of any consequence to me.”
Sharief had been elected several times to represent part of the territory in the 35th District, both as a Broward County commissioner and Miramar city commissioner. Her colleagues twice elected her to terms as county mayor.
Sharief, 50, who has a doctorate in nursing practice, is founder and CEO of South Florida Pediatric Homecare. In 2021, she lost a special Democratic primary to fill a congressional vacancy.
Sharief spent a lot of her own money on the 2021 and 2022 races. Through Aug. 18, five days before the voting, state campaign reports show Sharief put $630,000 of her own money into the Senate race and received $39,800 in contributions from others. She has the resources to self-fund her next campaign. The financial disclosure Sharief filed in connection with this year’s election showed she had a net worth of $6.4 million as of Dec. 31.
Though Book and Sharief are both Democrats, the August election — though held at primary time — was open to all voters, regardless of party, because no Republican or independent ran for the seat.
Many Democratic elected officials were infuriated by Sharief’s 2022 candidacy. Book is the Senate Democratic leader and because she was tied up and fighting in Broward County, she wasn’t able to perform the most important job of a party leader in the Legislature: traveling the state to raise money and help other candidates with their campaigns.
Sharief rejected that view, arguing Book didn’t have an automatic right to the seat.
Among those critical of the Sharief candidacy were Steve Geller, a Broward County commissioner and former Senate Democratic leader, and state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who will represent most of eastern Broward after the November election.
At a Democratic unity event two days after the August voting, their feelings hadn’t changed.
“She should not have run,” Geller said. Pizzo said he would support Woodson for Senate in 2024.
Sharief said frustration by some Democrats that she ran this year isn’t a concern. “The only people upset are Lauren Book’s people. … 25,000 people voted for me, so obviously they’re not pissed off about me running.”
With two months to go until the November elections, Sharief said it’s an ideal time to announce 2024 because people are paying attention to politics. “There’s a lot going on now that keeps people interested in elections.”
Klitzman said Democrats devote their energy to defeating Republicans in November. “We should all be focused on winning races in November, not on our own political ambitions. I’ll think about it and make a decision early next year. But November is the focus,” he said.
Woodson said she, too, is focused entirely on the election that’s eight weeks away, in which she faces a Republican challenger for re-election to the Florida House.
Woodson said she has received calls and text messages from constituents and community leaders urging her to run for the Senate. “I am humbled by all the support that I am getting from the community to do this,” she said. Their message: “Run for the [Senate] seat.”