By Linda Conklin, Charlotte Dems writer
Allen Ellison is the Democratic candidate for Florida Congressional District 17.
Born in Avon Park, FL, Allen Ellison currently resides in Sebring with his wife and daughter. Raised in rural Wauchula, FL, he is the oldest of seven. His father was a minister and his mother a special needs instructor. At the age of 10, Allen was inspired to become a barber. According to Allen, “I needed a haircut for the fifth-grade banquet, but there was no barber in town for a person of color.” Like any young boy would do, he found his father’s clippers and gave himself a fine haircut! It wasn’t long before he was cutting his siblings’ hair. He loved it and continually got better. By the sixth grade, he was taking the money he earned from washing cars to pay neighborhood kids to let him cut their hair. “My father convinced me that this was not a good business model. So, when I got to the eighth grade, my father bought a barber chair and I had a setup under our carport.” Today, Allen is the proprietor of an upscale salon and spa with several employees. Dreams do come true!
Allen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. There, he was elected Treasurer of his Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and, soon thereafter, became the organization’s first African-American President. Influenced by his parents’ sense of service, Allen became involved in community organizing initiatives. He and others created the Community Economic Council (CEC). CEC’s goal was to educate and inspire members of the community on issues related to business ownership, trade, and commerce. Allen founded the Center for Economic & Policy Development (CEPD). With a mission to facilitate economic growth throughout Central Florida, Allen developed The Emerging Leaders Initiative within the CEPD, pairing bright, young minds with current leaders in medicine, science, engineering, law, policy, and politics.
With his Political Science degree, CEC and CEPD experience, and his mission to be of service, it’s no surprise that his next venture would be into politics. But his entry came unexpectedly in late September 2018 after the tragic death of April Freeman, the Democratic candidate running for Congressional District 17. Allen accepted the nomination to fill that challenging role with less than a month to campaign. Allen said, “I had only 28 days to build and run a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in the largest congressional district in Florida. District 17 has nine sprawling counties—Lee, Sarasota, Polk, Charlotte, DeSoto, Okeechobee, Highlands, Glades, and Hardee.
“Now that I’m running for the position in the current election, I’ve been able to speak with groups and individuals throughout the district. I’ve listened to their concerns and have a very clear understanding of what my constituents want and need for a better quality of life in these very difficult times.” When asked what issues people were most interested in Allen said, “It has changed since the COVID pandemic. Prior to COVID, most people expressed concerns about the environment. We are dealing with red tide, blue-green algae, and Lake Okeechobee pollution pouring into the aquifer.”
Environmental quality and protection
“People are worried about global warming. My opponent, Greg Steube, supports dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). How can he justify that action? Maybe because Steube takes money from polluters like Mosaic Mining and Big Sugar and supports offshore drilling.” Allen continues, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that dismantling the EPA will have a catastrophic effect on the whole country. From regulating auto emissions to banning the use of DDT, from cleaning up toxic waste to protecting the ozone layer, the EPA’s achievements have resulted in cleaner air, purer water, and better-protected land. We need the EPA to keep giant polluters in check.”
According to Allen, “Another major issue is immigration. The Hispanic population is terrified of this country’s policies on separating children from their parents—many who are American-born—placed in foster care, or contained in cages. As a father, I have empathy for these parents. Brain development in those children will have long-term physical effects. There will be increased post-traumatic stress. This is not America—it is not moral! These children are sleeping on aluminum foil on concrete floors in a cage. Many of these children are subjected to abuse and rape.”
Allen continued, “What we should do is draft legislation that allows for a legal way to earn citizenship. One way to do that is by streamlining the process. Currently, these folks are paying a ridiculous amount of money– 4 to 5 thousand dollars per person in unaffordable attorney fees. And the application process through the State Department costs one to two hundred dollars and is written in English. These people need help to get through the process, which can take up to eight years.”
When asked about his opponent’s position, Allen replied: “Steube has stated that he wants to make enforcing immigration laws a priority and supports building a wall. He also says that he fully supports the president and the actions taken with regard to illegal immigrants.” Allen says, “We need to make sure that asylum seekers are not lumped in with others. We should not victimize these people; we need laws to protect them. This country will benefit–our economy will improve. We need workers—from citrus harvesting to infrastructure labor. Instead of building walls, let’s build bridges.”
Asking what other key issues voters have since COVID, Allen replied, “Lack of access to quality healthcare. I support universal health care. If elected I will work to find out if voters prefer a single provider, such as Medicare, or being able to choose their doctor/hospital. Either way, I will support the voters’ wishes. “Another issue people are worried about is jobs. There are millions of people out of work in Florida. Mr. Steube voted against a $1.5 billion bill for infrastructure. That bill would have created thousands of jobs. Roads, bridges—we should be working on our infrastructure to make it safer using green technology. Add to that 4,000 plus companies going out of business, we need to provide jobs.”
Describing his position on gun control, Allen says, “My opponent has been endorsed by the NRA and has no plan to change gun laws in this country. I am not in favor of infringing on Amendment 2, but there is no reason that we cannot reduce gun violence with stronger background checks. We need gun ownership regulated at a national level rather than state by state. “Over 76% of gun violence in Chicago is perpetrated by violators using guns from other states. I support the Brady law, a provision of US federal law that requires a waiting period for handgun purchases and background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns.”
Disabilities and Veterans
People with disabilities are a key issue with Allen. “I am the champion of people with disabilities,” Ellison said, “and I strongly believe in increasing social security disability benefits. More than 26% of Americans have a disability. Florida District 17 alone has more than 250,000. These people have no voice in the legislature. We need to look past their disabilities and not marginalize them further. This is not a partisan issue. Anyone could find themselves in this position. I want to be their representative—their voice.” According to Allen, “The current representative wants to reduce those benefits. Gov. DeSantis is trying to replace state treasury funds depleted by COVID. To do that, he and my opponent have proposed an 8.5% reduction in disability benefits.“
Regarding the Veterans Administration, Allen says, “The VA is overwhelmed by claims from our patriotic men and women. Statistics show that veterans have to wait an average of 200+ days to receive a decision on a filed claim. I think we can do better than this, and I intend to fight for those who fight and who fought for us. The rate of depression, including PTSD, is high among our veterans,” Allen states, “leading to nearly 28 suicides every day. I want protocols in place before a soldier leaves the military. We need to make sure the resources are in place for their mental and physical needs. My opponent thinks veterans should get health care access somewhere other than the VA.”
Women’s rights and equality
“Women deserve our commitment to eliminate gender bias”, says Allen, “and they should have equal rights to economic and educational opportunities. With regard to a woman’s right to choose, we should protect that right and we should provide health care resources . . . period. My opponent recently tweeted that a woman getting an abortion is not entitled to health care coverage. I don’t care if it’s a ruptured appendix or an abortion, the issue is quality health care!” With regard to pay, Allen says, “Women’s pay is still lagging. Across the U.S., women earn $0.78 on the dollar ($.69 for women of color) compared to men. Who wouldn’t want to support equal pay for equal work?”
A topic not talked about enough is the high rate of rape of women in prison. Allen says, “We need to make sure prison officials are held accountable for allowing this abuse. And I do not believe in private prisons.”
I hope this profile has given you many reasons to vote for Allen Ellison for Congress. He cares deeply, he listens to his constituents, and he will make good on his promises. Please vote BLUE and elect Allen Ellison on November 3r