'If Not Me, Then Who?': Police Review Board Director Rodney Jacobs Vies for Lauren Book's Senate Seat

'If Not Me, Then Who?': Police Review Board Director Rodney Jacobs Vies for Lauren Book's Senate Seat

Miami's police oversight director Rodney Jacobs hopes to beat out a screenwriter and a former Mayor for Lauren Book's Senate seat

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
May 29, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The Executive Director of a police oversight panel hopes to beat out a screenwriter and a former Mayor to become the Democratic nominee for Senate District 35 after its representative, Minority Leader Lauren Book, was termed out. Rodney Jacobs, the Executive Director of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel, jumped into the statewide race in September 2023, telling The Floridian, "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"

"You would read some of these bills and wonder, who is asking for that?" Jacobs said, claiming that his impetus for joining the race was the slew of "culture war" bills passed in the state's capitol building, such as "book bans and the Don't Say Gay bill". He argued these divert focus from what he says are more pressing and all-encompassing issues, such as home insurance premiums.

"I realized, am I going to fight for Florida or am I going to move?" said Jacobs, an Army veteran currently in the reserves. "And I like to say that the only thing that rises faster than sea levels in South Florida are home insurance premiums—there are so many people that are hurting from it—and for far too long, Tallahassee hasn't done anything to help that."

With Florida property owners already paying more than four times the national average for home insurance, experts have warned that premiums this year will jump anywhere between 6 percent to 23 percent in preparation for a dangerously busy hurricane season.

Jacobs also touched on his own position in a police oversight board—which were largely founded after black man George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota. This session, the Legislature passed a bill banning civilian police review boards from the state.

"We fought against that bill. It will impact us, but to what extent we're still uncertain," he said, explaining some of the panel's facets, such as mediation programs, reviews, and internal audits of police department's best practices, may not fall under the measure. "The law doesn't go into effect until July, so we're going to keep fighting like hell to ensure that community members still have a say in how they're policed, but also so that we can keep working in collaboration with police departments to make sure they're upholding their best practices."

Jacobs is running a grassroots campaign with nearly all of Sen. Tracie Davis' team, he said, explaining he will push an "Economics for the Dinner Table" platform, in which he will address issues like daycare costs, food costs, and traffic congestion—problems everyday Floridians talk about around their dinner tables.

And while he boasts endorsements from the VoteVets PAC, the progressive organization Run for Something, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, his competitor Chad Klitzman—an attorney, screenwriter, and advocate for Jewish and LGBTQ communities—has already been endorsed by three state Lawmakers, the Hollywood Mayor, and two city commissioners.

His other competitor, former Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief—the county's first black female Mayor—has been endorsed by one state Legislator, six Mayors, and twelve city commissioners.

In terms of money, Jacobs says his campaign has raised over $100,000 in total. As of April, Klitzman said his campaign has raised nearly $300,000 total, and Sharief—who poured over $184,000 of her money into her campaign—raised $61,000 in the last quarter alone.

In 2022, Sharief suffered a 20-point loss to Lauren Book for SD 35, and in 2021, came in third against Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick for her congressional seat. In a close 2020 runoff election, Klitzman lost to Joe Scott for county Supervisor of Elections.

Though Jacobs has never run a political campaign, he explained, "Although I'm new to campaigning, I'm not new to politics," as he has worked with Legislators on bills dealing with police accountability issues.

Furthermore, he adds, "I'm the only one in this race who hasn't lost an election."

The primary is on August 20th, and the General is on November 5th. The Democratic nominee will face Sheriff's Deputy Vincent Parlatore, the sole Republican, in the heavily Democratic district.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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