I know that many people are counting on me to turn Florida’s 4th Congressional District blue in 2018, to break the Republican stranglehold on Northeast Florida. I know that Congressman John Rutherford’s total lack of engagement with constituents outside his hardcore GOP supporters has people livid. But this is going to take a much more long-term effort.

Florida requires either over 5,400 petitions or $10,440 to get on the ballot for Congress. We unfortunately didn’t have the volunteers to get the petitions or the contacts for fundraising until quite recently.

Yet, to be honest, it would make no sense to pay such an obscene amount of money, especially a month past the earlier deadline for petitions. This is why I have arrived at an important decision. I asked myself: do I want to do this now, or do I want to do this right?

I won’t call this “dropping out.” I will call it tactically retreating. I’m going to take everything we’ve built for 2018 and redirect it to 2020 instead. I plan to file for the 2020 election as soon as possible.

When I recently attended the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s National Candidate Training in April of 2018, I realized that, if we had the resources we have now two years ago, we’d be winning this race. I am sure of that. So this time, we’re going to make a big push for collecting petitions early, and we are going to succeed. We’re already starting to plan events for everyone to get involved and get this campaign on the ground running.

Sure, I could do a massive fundraising rush to qualify for the ballot right now, but, frankly, I know that we need far more resources if we want any hope of beating John Rutherford in a district drawn specifically for him, a district made to be so red that no national organization will touch it. If we’re going to make some magic happen, we need more time to shore up resources.

If fact, if you donated money to the campaign in the past, please don’t be disappointed—all that money will carry over to the 2020 race. In fact, now is the best possible time to start donating $5, $10, $20, or $40 monthly because these recurring donations will add up to a ton by 2020. Can I count on you for $10 monthly?

Sure, I could run for a state-level or local Jacksonville office instead, but I realized that if I’m going to devote my time to fundraising and connecting with voters, regardless of the office I’m running for, I need to get my personal affairs in order, especially after what happened between me and UNF this past summer. I plan to get a job as a high school English teacher in the meantime, which will be more than enough to get my personal life to a stable point. I’ll have the resources to devote myself more fully to campaigning in 2020. Do also look for the third book in my Blood Arcana series in 2019.

Also, we already have some great candidates running for state office in 2018. Tracye Polson and Tim Yost are both running for the Florida state House of Representatives and are fighting for our future. Most of all, however, I plan to work hard and volunteer for Andrew Gillum’s campaign for governor. Mr. Gillum is a progressive powerhouse who will turn Florida from Rick Scott’s mess of poverty and corporate welfare into a state where everyone can succeed. You will see me on the street knocking doors for him.

Now, you might be wondering if I have any intention of endorsing the remaining District 4 Democrat, Ges Selmont. No, I don’t. Ever since Mr. Selmont declared his candidacy and started campaigning for the Democratic nomination alongside me, I have been holding back most of my criticisms of them for the sake of propriety. Now is the time to unload.

Ges Selmont’s only qualification in running for office is being a millionaire. That is abundantly clear from hearing him speak. I am so sick of hearing about how wonderful his wife and two sons are. Every one of his speeches focuses on how Democrats and Republicans agree on more than they disagree on. Sure, fine, but how is this important? How does name dropping Hillary Clinton and mentioning that he was a Clinton intern count as any view on policy? I could name drop Bernie Sanders, but I have no reason to because my policies should speak for themselves and are generally still agreeable to people who supported Hillary in 2016. When asked about his views on policy, Selmont tends to dodge the question. Though he has claimed to be a progressive, he proves time and time again that he has few concrete views on much of anything. He doesn’t support healthcare as a human right, he won’t give a straight answer about ending trickle-down economics, and he has no connection to public education—he even sends his sons to Boles High School, paying tuition over double what I made teaching at UNF yearly. And I cannot believe that he would actually stoop to comparing himself wearing a Democrats T-shirt at a gas station to being transgender, especially in the presence of a trans candidate like me. His inability to connect with everyday Americans reveals what a phony he is. Lastly, the man has the charisma of a piece of untoasted white bread. Then again, I think I just insulted the bread. Someone so boring has no chance of getting young people engaged with the political process, which is so important right now

Now, some may say that I should support the Democratic candidate just to make sure we get rid of Rutherford. I stand by my assertions, however, because this is a dangerous mindset. As Nina Turner drove home repeatedly at the PCCC training, “Any old blue just won’t do!”

I support a Democratic Party that represents the people, not corporate donors. Corporate Democrats are not much better than “trickle-down” Republicans. Besides, I’m an English teacher, and criticism is a cornerstone of helping students reflect on their writing skills and improve. Politicians are no different: if we can’t criticize our own party, we can’t improve it. As the 2016 election proved, merely being against Republicans while being too afraid to take a bold stand for the needs of everyday Americans is not a recipe for Democratic wins. It’s a recipe for Trump. Now, maybe Selmont can magically become a bold progressive champion, but, as I’ve seen of him so far, I really doubt it.

I recently adopted the philosophy, “Let the voice of love take you higher.” Although it’s from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, it’s exactly what we need right now. If we’re going to succeed, we need to fight for everyone, and we need to take bold stances doing it. When I’m in Congress, I will be serving every citizen of District 4, even Republicans, and even people who hate me for being trans. In a political climate with so much anger and hate, it’s time to spread happiness and love. Instead of just saying that Democrats are better than Republicans, we need to show that we’re willing to fight for a future in which healthcare is a human right, education is properly funded, and a hard day of work returns more than a lifetime of poverty.

This was a difficult decision, but I am confident in it. If we keep working together, we can take over District 4 in 2020 and turn it into a place to accomplish good instead of Rutherford’s continuous right-wing insanity. In the meantime, just remember: You Are Not Alone!

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Monica DePaul for U.S. Congress
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