Al Fox is very aware there are skeptics regarding his exploratory bid for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Marco Rubio, but he says he has the "fire in the belly" required to pull off a serious run.
What You Need To Know
- Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings is the early front-runner in the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate in 2022
- Fox is best known for his strong advocacy for ending the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba
- Fox ran for Congress in 2006, finishing fourth in a five-person field which saw Kathy Castor first elected to her House seat
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"I get it," he says about the critics who question his sincerity, his lack of name recognition (outside of Tampa) and a myriad of other factors that mark the 77-year-old as an outsider in the 2022 contest.
"You know, who's Al Fox? But if not me, who? No one running in the race has the experience I have in the United States Senate," he says.
That Senate experience derives from the decades he spent in Washington working as a senior congressional staff assistant in both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives before he returned back to his hometown of Tampa in the aughts to make his only previous run for political office.
In 2006, Fox finished fourth in a five-person field for the Hillsborough County area congressional seat that had opened up after then-incumbent Jim Davis ran for governor. Kathy Castor ended up winning the contest, but Fox admits some sense of vindication when she became the first Florida member of Congress to condemn the economic sanctions against Cuba in 2013.
"I do take great pride when I came back to my hometown in 2006," he recalls. "Every member of the (Tampa) City Council, the (Hillsborough) County Commission, the (Tampa) Port Authority. The (Hillsborough) Aviation Authority. They all had Marco Rubio's position on Cuba."
"But 36 months later ... they had my position on U.S.-Cuba policy."
Fox formed the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 1998 as a vehicle to push for liberalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Since then he's traveled more than 100 times to the island nation, frequently with local, state and national elected officials accompanying him, to interact with members of the Cuban government. That made him extremely unpopular in some quarters of the state, including parts of Tampa.
That advocacy paid dividends in late 2014, though, when President Barack Obama announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, many of those policies enacted by the Obama administration were reversed by President Donald Trump, and Cuba doesn't appear to be anywhere near the top of President Joe Biden's foreign policy agenda.
So where is Fox on other important national issues? He says he's an amalgam of liberal and conservative positions, saying he supports transgender kids, believes strongly in the Second Amendment and has a stance on immigration that you don't hear often from Democrats.
Fox says that as a disincentive to hire undocumented people, he would fine any employer $50,000 a day, per violation, for hiring an undocumented worker. His idea as far as hiring guest workers would be to arrange job fairs where companies would coordinate with Central American governments to interview potential employees and get them work visas in the U.S.
"How many of those contractors in Arizona are going to hire 100 roofers knowing that if they get caught, that's what they're going to face?" he asks."Well you say, why doesn't the Democratic Party call shame on those contractors who are primarily Republican? Because in the Democratic Party, they know that these workers — if they should become American citizens ... because they're on the lower socio-economic order, they're more likely to join the Democratic Party?"
Fox says he has contributed $50,000 of his own money for the early part of his campaign but is shunning requests for financial contributions for now. He's disdainful of big money in U.S. politics, which he says the leaders of the Democratic Party are obsessed with.
"Why do people have to raise outrageous sums of money? There will be no one in my campaign that's going to get paid $25,000 a month to be a consultant. That ain't going to happen. That's just money totally wasted, okay?" he says.
Although Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings is the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Senate, there are other Democrats who have already entered the primary, such as Miami Commissioner Ken Russell. Former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson is also contemplating a candidacy.