It is no secret that all across the US, women’s rights are under attack. The overturn of the Roe v. Wade ruling eliminated national protections for abortion, and states have seized that opportunity to take away women’s reproductive freedoms, These choices on the part of the states and national government will damage the health and livelihoods of women throughout the country.
And let’s face it, even before the overturn of this vital precedent, women in the US got the short end of the stick. We make 84 cents to every dollar a man makes thanks to workplace discrimination. We live in one of the few countries in the world which does not provide paid maternity leave, and we face the indignity of politicians which brag about their ability to sexually assault us.
We need to start using our voting power as a block to ensure we get better treatment. We make up 50% of the US population, and if we banded together to ensure that our voices were heard, can you imagine how loud we would be? If we all started voting based on policies which directly affect our population, can you imagine the difference we could make? For far too long, women have put the concerns that directly affect us and our gender on the backburner, and it is time those issues had their time in the sun.
As you all no doubt know by now, I live in Florida, and care deeply about Florida politics. The race I have real hope for this year is the race for Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner. In the 2018 election, Nikki Fried won the seat (the only Democrat to win a state-wide race in Florida). It is one of the few statewide races in Florida in which Democrats are competitive. Given that this race is one of the few opportunities Florida women have to make change at the state level, it is incredibly important that we select a candidate in the Democratic primary to nominate to the general election who is unquestionably enthusiastic about addressing issues which directly affect women in the US. I did extensive research into each candidate and thought I would share my findings with the community.
First a disclaimer. While many think the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services just handles issues related to farming in Florida, that is not the case. This department is incredibly powerful and has jurisdiction over an extensive number of issues which affect Florida consumers and citizens. So this office can definitely tackle issues which affect Florida women.
Now, let’s discuss each of the candidates in detail.
First, Naomi Blemur. Naomi is a pastor, businesswoman, and Miami-Dade Democratic Party Committeewoman. She has been wracked in scandal over the last few days after prior posts of hers came to light in which she voiced her contempt for women’s reproductive rights.
As you can see below, she commented on a post that “Abortion is a SIN. Just like any other sin, it will never be consistent with Christianity. Period.”
In another post she criticized US Senator Raphael Warnock for his support of a woman’s right to choose, saying “Wow…this pastor has certainly taken a leap, and there is NO scripture to back it up.” These posts are hardly cryptic, you can clearly see that she was not a supporter of women's reproductive rights.
After these posts and other anti-LBGTQ posts came to light, several prominent Democrats withdrew their endorsements, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, State Sen. Annette Taddeo, and State Sen. Shevrin Jones. Naomi Blemur responded to the publishment of her posts by issuing a statement which said that the claims by her critics that she was anti-choice and homophobic were “a baseless attack,” “mansplaining” and “laughable.” She was almost immediately condemned for refusing to own up to her prior views. Annette Taddeo said in a public statement on Twitter that part of the reason she chose to make the decision to withdraw her endorsement was that Blemur chose “lies instead of taking accountability.”
So clearly, Naomi Blemur has a terrifying past of advocating for anti-choice causes, and is facing criticism within the Democratic Party for her inability to tell the truth and own up to her prior actions. Clearly she is a bad choice for women voters and Floridians as a whole.
Next let’s turn towards Ryan Morales, a self-described cannabis activist and former candidate for Florida House District 32. The first thing I think is relevant here is his history of abusing women. Morales has an arrest for domestic battery against his wife in 2017 (Ryan Morales, case number 2017 MM 002245). Court records also indicate a previous domestic violence charge associated with Ryan (“YES” is circled next to “Has previous [Domestic Violence] charge”), though I could not find records for the other charge. So if you’re looking for a politician who cares about women, this guy is not your candidate.
I believe his record should be enough to disqualify him, but if you are not satisfied, I did also look into his policy platform before I ran a background check.
I did a deep dive into what I could find on his views on issues which concern women. I read his website, clicked through his social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), and watched the video he had released in which he discussed women’s reproductive rights (with Rebekah Jones).
To his credit, Ryan Morales has come out in support of a woman’s right to an abortion, in the video and on social media. But that has been pretty much the extent of his addressment of women’s issues. Just abortion. Nothing else that I could find.
In his video, he and Rebekah discussed lots of ways other politicians (Desantis, Manchin, etc) could take action to help protect women’s abortion rights, but he did not give any detailed plans for how he personally could protect women while serving in the office he is running for.
So his platform is lacking and disappointing and he has a record of domestic violence. He is definitely not the champion of women’s rights that women in Florida need.
Finally let’s turn to J.R. Gaillot. I was pleasantly surprised to find a breadth of policies and plans laid out on Gaillot’s website in which he talks about how he can use the power of the Commissioner’s office to help women. Not only does he state unequivocally that he is pro-choice, he goes well beyond that and discusses a variety of issues impacting women, including the price of menstrual products, contraceptives, and childcare, maternity leave, and workplace discrimination.
I mentioned in an earlier article that feminine products have become much more expensive over the course of the year, due to inflation and price gouging of essential products by greedy companies, with the price of pads rising by 8 percent and the price of tampons rising by 10 percent. These price increases have been devastating, especially given that before prices even rose, 21% of women reported that they were unable to afford these products every month. J.R Gaillot has laid out a plan to address this issue by placing a cap on the price of menstrual products.
He also states on his website that he will “advocate for lower prices of contraceptives as those products help protect women from unwanted pregnancies''. According to the National Women’s health network, without insurance “birth control pills can cost between $20 and $50 for each pack”, “implants cost over $800 each” and “intrauterine devices cost over $1,000 each”. He has a plan to lower costs and help women get access to the medical care that they are entitled to.
He also has a plan to tackle the rising cost of childcare. In the US the price of childcare has risen significantly. According to a CNBC analysis of the “Demanding Change” report, the national average annual cost of child care in 2020 was $10,174. According to the article “that figure represents more than 10% of the median income for a married couple, and more than 35% percent of the median income for a single parent.” Unfortunately, the rising cost of childcare disproportionately hurts women, who are often expected to leave their career, or suffer career hits, in order to care for children when daycare is unaffordable. J.R. Gaillot has laid out a detailed plan for how he is going to use the power of the Agriculture Commissioner to help make childcare more affordable.
J.R Gaillot also has a plan to help with paid maternity leave. As we all know, there is no requirement for businesses to provide paid maternity leave in Florida, which means women are often forced to go back to work while still suffering from postpartum health problems, or are forced to take hits to their career and income by quitting or taking unpaid time off to care for themselves and their baby. J.R. Gaillot explains on his website that the Commissioner has the power to institute a policy which requires businesses under the purview of the department to give women “60 days of paid leave to bond or care for their children, regardless of part/full-time status and despite their eligibility for Family and Medical Leave.”
J.R. Gaillot also has a plan to tackle workplace discrimination. Time and time again we have seen pregnant women discriminated against in the workplace. J.R. Gaillot states on his website that “under Chapter 570, Section 37 of the Florida statutes, the Commissioner is granted the ability to legally pursue employers who violate the Pregnancy Discrimination and Family Medical Leave Acts.” J.R. Gaillot says on his website that he will use that ability to protect pregnant women from discrimination and go after companies which violate that law.
But wait, we’re still not done. I’ve listed some of the policies that J.R. Gaillot currently has on his website, but he has stated that there are more to come, including more plans to help reduce discrimination and ensure equal treatment for women.
After having read my summary of all the research I did on candidates in this race, I hope that you have come to the same conclusion I have. I am choosing to support J.R. Gaillot in the Florida Agriculture Commissioner’s race. He is pro-choice, but also goes above and beyond that to reach out to women and develop policies which address issues that are important to us. Ensuring women have equality in the US is a multifaceted issue, and requires a multifaceted approach. We need someone with a plan and with clear, actionable goals. Not only do we need to elect J.R Gaillot to ensure he puts into place all the policies he advocates for, we need to do it to show politicians that they need to start listening to us, caring about our concerns, and openly and honestly tells us what they are going to do to help us.
We need to elect J.R. Gaillot, if not for his platform and his policies, than to ensure his two opponents, with records of bigotry and violence, don’t get into office.