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Police watchdog leader enters Florida State Senate race in Broward

Florida State Senate District 35 candidate Rodney Jacobs Jr., pictured here at Florida Memorial University in 2020
Rodney Jacobs Jr.
Florida State Senate District 35 candidate Rodney Jacobs Jr., pictured here at Florida Memorial University in 2020

Rodney Jacobs Jr., who leads a police watchdog group in Miami, announced Tuesday that he's joining the legislative race for the State Senate in Broward County.

Jacobs, 33, said he felt he had little choice but to run for political office to fix issues he sees in Florida government.

“I took a long hard look in the mirror and said, hey, what are you going to do about this? Are you going to ensure that your son grows up in schools that represent inclusivity and diversity? Are you going to keep doing the real work to ensure that people have a real place to call home in Florida,” Jacobs told WLRN.

The political newcomer enters the primary race against Barbara Sharief, a prominent Democrat who was Broward County's first Black woman mayor and is a former Miramar city commissioner.

State Senate candidate Barbara Sharief
Sharief for State Senate campaign
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Sharief for State Senate campaign
State Senate candidate Barbara Sharief

The state Senate District 35 seat is currently held by Florida State Senate Democrat Minority Leader Lauren Book, who will be termed out next year.

Two years ago, Sharief ran against Book in a bitter open Democratic primary. She lost by more than 12,000 votes. State senators are normally elected to four-terms, but in reapportionment years they get elected to two-year terms.

The district encompasses parts of West Broward, including Weston, Pembroke Pines, and Miramar.

READ MORE: Sen. Lauren Book begins term leading outnumbered Democrats

The primary winner is heavily favored to win the general election because the district tilts heavily toward Democrats, who represent 43 percent of all registered voters. No-Party-Affiliation voters make up 32 percent of all registered voters followed by Republicans who comprise 23 percent, according to the latest voter registration data.

Jacobs currently serves as Executive Director of the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel— a watchdog group that reviews citizen complaints against officers in the City of Miami Police Department — from discourtesy complaints to allegations of excessive force. He started in 2017 and was appointed to lead the CIP office last November.

Jacobs and his family have been Miramar residents since 2020.

Aside from his duties overseeing the CIP, Jacobs is also an Army Reserve Commander and an adjunct professor at Florida International University teaching administrative law and ethics.

Jacobs said issues like skyrocketing insurance rates and the lack of housing affordability inspired him to step up and work on topics that Floridians are actually worried about "at the dinner table."

“I want to ensure that people stay in the homes that they have purchased. We had a whole special session on insurance and it really didn’t move the needle on much or any of those things,” he said.

The Legislature held a special session on insurance last December. Property insurers were given numerous protections in hopes to bring down insurance rates, but some changes actually raised insurance premiums for homeowners.

Jacobs said his legislative priorities focus on economics, climate change solutions, education and public health.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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