Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who has represented parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties since 2010 and is a senior Democratic member of Congress, won’t seek re-election and plans to resign before the end of his current term.
Deutch said Monday he would become CEO of the American Jewish Committee, which will allow him to be devoted full-time to advocating for the Jewish community and for Israel, and combatting antisemitism — causes that were passions of his long before he first ran for political office more than 15 years ago.
“At a time of rising antisemitism and at a time when Israel continues to be under attack by so many who seek to delegitimize Israel, this is an opportunity to work on these issues on a global platform, and to focus every day about things that I’m passionate about,” he said in a telephone interview. “Standing up for global Jewry is something that has always been my passion.”
The move immediately set of a flurry of political activity, as many people currently holding state and local office started assessing candidacies to run for the suddenly open seat. And it underscored the dismal political landscape for Democrats, who are widely expected to lose control of the House in November, prompting many incumbents to opt against running for re-election.
He plans to start his new job on Oct. 1. By then, he said, Congress is scheduled to recess for the fall election season. “I was elected to a two-year term and wanted to at least do the work of the people before the election,” he said.
Deutch was widely seen as all-but-certain to win re-election. But his decision not to run is a further indication that Democrats expect major losses in the 2022 election. He is the 31st House Democrat who has decided not to seek re-election this year.
The majority party has complete control of the House, and many representatives don’t want to move to minority party status after serving in the majority.
Deutch said the political landscape is not why he’s leaving.
“This is not about running away from Congress. This is about running to an opportunity to focus full-time on the issues that I’m passionate about,” he said. “I don’t want to understate it, but the challenges to the Jewish community are real, and the timing of this couldn’t have been better.”
Fred Guttenberg, who has become politically and personally close with Deutch since his daughter Jaime was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, said it’s a mistake for people to assume Deutch is bailing out because of the political landscape.
“I knew people were going to think that, and I just say this: that has nothing to do with that. He legitimately had a career opportunity, a life opportunity that just doesn’t come along often. If not for that he would still be there,” Guttenberg said.
“In life, sometimes we get these opportunities to reinvent ourselves and do something that is just so meaningful, and he has that,” Guttenberg said. “It is a life opportunity for him and his passions and what matters to him so deeply.”
Republicans saw something going on
“It’s not a surprise that another Democrat has chosen not to run in anticipation of the red wave in 2022,” said Tom Powers, chairman of the Broward Republican Party.
And Julia Friedland, Florida communications director for the Republican National Committee, added in a statement that it’s a sign of what’s to come in the fall elections. “Good choice on retirement, Ted Deutch. Don’t worry – you’ll be joined by more of your Democrat friends soon enough!”
Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, declined to directly comment on the implications of so many Democrats heading for the exits, rather than staying around to serve in an all-but-certain Republican-controlled House.
“I’m not going to say that. We will be battling and fighting hard,” Rizzo said. “It’s not unusual, honestly, for us to see this. There will be great Democrats running in all the districts.”
Congressional seats don’t come open often, and many of the region’s political figures immediately began assessing candidacies.
What one political strategist said would be a free-for-all is different from 2010, when Deutch was elected. He was the clear successor to his predecessor, and the announcement of then-U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler’s resignation and the announcement of Deutch’s candidacy were executed as part of a plan.
That’s not the case with Deutch’s decision to leave office.
The potential candidates all have a range of pluses and minuses. Several have shown they share a key attribute: an ability to raise money for an expensive campaign.
Among the leading potential candidates:
Jared Moskowitz: He is currently serving as an appointed member of the Broward County Commission, for a term that ends with the November election. He’s a former director of the state Emergency Management Agency, a former state representative from northwest Broward, and a former Parkland city commissioner.
Moskowitz is all but certain to run, but didn’t say so on Monday. “Today is about Ted. So I don’t want to say too much because at the end of the day it really is about Ted,” Moskowitz said. “This just broke. I’ve got to obviously get with my family. There are decisions that have to be made and I’ll be making my announcement in coming days.”
One thing that could rankle some in his party: the man who appointed Moskowitz as emergency chief is Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is despised by Democratic voters.
There is a bittersweet note for Moskowitz running. He and his late father, Mike Moskowitz, “had talked over a decade [about my] running when Ted was finished. And I was hoping my Dad and I could do this together.”
Mike Moskowitz, a prominent lawyer-lobbyist, former Broward state Democratic committeeman and major party fundraiser, died in January of pancreatic cancer. The reason Moskowitz left his previous job as state emergency chief was so he could spend time with his father during his illness.
Mark Bogen: He is currently a Broward County commissioner. “I’m looking at it. I haven’t made any decisions,” Bogen said.
A person close to Bogen noted the current boundaries of the congressional district have “a lot of overlap” with the communities he represents on the commission.
Gary Farmer: A state senator, Farmer represents a Broward district in Tallahassee. Asked if he’s considering running, Farmer responded via text: “Yes, I am giving it strong consideration.”
Farmer is facing a challenging re-election campaign because the state Senate redistricting maps — which have passed and are awaiting approval form the Florida Supreme Court — significantly change the boundaries of the current district he represents, likely forcing him into a primary with one or two other incumbent senators.
Dean Trantalis: The Fort Lauderdale mayor said via text, “It would be an honor to follow in the footsteps of Congressman Deutch and I will soon make a decision.”
Trantalis, the most prominent LGBT elected official in Broward or Palm Beach counties, could raise money from the national LGBT community.
Several people whose names came up as potential candidates among political insiders on Monday said they weren’t running:
- Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Plantation “is not considering a run for Congress. She intends to run for re-election in November and looks forward to leading the Senate Democratic caucus in the state Senate for another two years,” said aide Claire VanSusteren.
- State Sen. Tina Polsky, whose Broward-Palm Beach County district includes territory Deutch represents, said via text she was “extremely grateful” for the calls she received Monday encouraging her to run. “But I fully intend to run for and remain in the Florida Senate as I still have much here to do.”
- Fred Guttenberg said he would not run for Congress. “I am honored by the outreach today, but I’ve made a life decision that my career and my life and my future is not in politics. I will be continuing to hold people accountable, but not running for anything.”
Guttenberg said there are “other really terrific people, and I look forward to supporting one of them.”
He has been a supporter of Moskowitz, a Stoneman Douglas graduate who was the state representative from Parkland at the time of the massacre. Asked if he was referring to a possible Moskowitz candidacy, Guttenberg said, “I need to let him speak for himself. But I’ll leave it at this: He’s a really dear friend and I think the world of him.”
Deutch said he didn’t expect he’d endorse any of the candidates.
Unlike Republican Party activists, state Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, thanked Deutch for his service. “Although we often disagree, he was always a strong supporter of key issues that have a major impact on the region,” LaMarca said.
“We all see what has happened to discourse in D.C. If Eileen and I decide that we want to take this journey for the people of Florida, I would be the only candidate that actually has a proven record of working across the aisle and finding solutions for every Floridian,” LaMarca said. Eileen LaMarca is his wife.
Boundaries of the district, which currently includes most of Broward north of Interstate 595 along with southeast Palm Beach County, will change before the August primary and the November election.
Regardless of its exact shape, given the voter registration in most of Broward and Palm Beach counties, whoever the Democrats nominate in the August primary is likely to become the next member of Congress.
Powers, who lives in the district, said this year’s elections in which Republicans nationwide are expected to do well, could be an exception.
“I will not concede that any Democratic seat is safe in this country based on what’s happening across America right now,” Powers said.
Deutch and other Democrats said “It’s definitely going to be a Democratic district. It has an overwhelming number of hard-working and committed Democrats,” said Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, adding, “With hard work,” Democrats will retain the seat.
State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a South Broward/north Miami-Dade County Democrat who is leading an effort to increase mail-voting by minority voters, said on Twitter he was sure Deutch would be succeeded by a Democrat. After praising the departing congressman on Twitter, Jones added: “I am MORE than confident that his replacement will continue to carry that mantle.”
The state Legislature is currently considering how it wants to redraw boundaries of the state’s congressional districts to account for population changes uncovered in the 2020 Census.
Members of Congress must be residents of the state they represent, but they don’t have to live in the district. Deutch doesn’t live in his current district, the boundaries of which were changed during an unusual mid-decade redistricting. He lives west of Boca Raton and the Palm Beach County portion of the district takes in just the southeastern part of the county.
Deutch, 55, was elected to the Florida Senate in 2006. His only difficult, contentious race was the Senate primary that year, when he defeated then-state Rep. Irv Slosberg.
Succeeding U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler in 2010, he became one of the most liberal members of the Florida congressional delegation. But he enjoyed cordial relationships with many Democrats, and was an early leader of a bipartisan task force trying to forge agreement on combating global climate change.
He notably broke with then-President Barack Obama and voted against the 2015 deal with Iran aimed at reducing its ability to develop nuclear weapons. The agreement was later cancelled by then-President Donald Trump.
Deutch has supported increasing taxes to solve the long-term financing crunch facing Social Security, he favored LGBT adoption and same-sex marriage long before support became almost universal among Democrats, and he pushed to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United campaign finance decision from the U.S. Supreme Court and allow laws to regulate campaign spending.
Deutch said he would spend a lot of time in New York and a lot of time in Washington, D.C., but said he would continue to live in South Florida.
The Power Lunch – Florida Politics Newsletter
A lunch-hour look at what’s trending in Florida politics.
There’s some political déjà vu in Deutch’s decision to resign.
He was elected in an April 2010 special election to fill the vacancy created when Wexler resigned from Congress after 13 years to become president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the first Jewish women from Florida elected to Congress, said in a statement that “No one is more committed to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and fighting the scourge of antisemitism than Ted.”
AJC, 116-years-old, has about 300 employees in two dozen offices around the world. William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement that Deutch “is the perfect leader” to lead AJC. “Ted is the mensch’s mensch.”