Carrie Meek

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Carrie Meek

Carrie Meek is a former Democratic (EMILY's List-supported) member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida. She is the mother of Kendrick Meek, Democratic U.S. Congressman who is currently campaigning for U.S. Senate.

Early life

Carrie Pittman, daughter of Willie and Carrie Pittman, was born on April 29, 1926, in Tallahassee, Florida. Her grandmother was born and raised in Georgia as a slave. Carrie Pittman’s parents began their married life as sharecroppers, though her father went on to become a caretaker and her mother a laundress and the owner of a boardinghouse. She was the youngest of 12 children, a tomboy whom her siblings nicknamed “Tot.” She lived near the old Florida capitol in a neighborhood called the “Bottom.” Pittman was a track and field star while earning a B.S. in biology and physical education at Florida A&M University in 1946. She enrolled at the University of Michigan graduate school because blacks were banned from Florida graduate schools, though the state government would pay out-of-state tuition, “if we agreed to get out of Dodge,” she later recalled.1 She graduated in 1948 with an M.S. degree in public health and physical education. Afterward, Pittman taught at Bethune Cookman, a historically black college in Daytona Beach, where she coached basketball and taught biological sciences and physical education. She later taught at Florida A&M in Tallahassee. In 1961, as a divorced mother of two young children, Carrie Pittman Meek moved to Miami-Dade Community College, where she spent the next three decades teaching and administrating, eventually serving as special assistant to the vice president of the college. [1]


Carrie Meek in 1980[2]

In 1978, Meek won election to the Florida state house of representatives, defeating a field of 12 candidates. She served from 1979 to 1983, during which time she chaired the education appropriations subcommittee. From 1983 to 1993, Meek served in the Florida senate. She was the first African-American woman elected to that body and the first black to serve there since Reconstruction. She earned a reputation as a particularly effective legislator, passing a minority business enterprise law and other legislation to promote literacy and reduce the school dropout rate

In 1992, when incumbent Congressman Bill Lehman (a veteran 10-term Democrat) decided to retire, Meek captured the Democratic nomination for his newly reapportioned district that ran through northern Miami suburbs in Dade County. She ran unopposed in the general election. Since Meek essentially clinched the seat by winning the September primary in the heavily Democratic district, she later claimed to be the first African American elected to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction. Democrats Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings, who prevailed over opponents in the November general election in two other Florida districts, were sworn in with Meek on January 3, 1993.

Meek entered Congress at age 66 and immediately launched into an ambitious agenda. Meek intensively—and successfully—lobbied for a seat on the Appropriations Committee, a virtually unheard of assignment for a freshman legislator. When the Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Meek was bumped off Appropriations and reassigned to the Budget Committee and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. In 1996, she returned to the Appropriations Committee and eventually served on two of its subcommittees: Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government and VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies.

Meek focused on the needs of her district, which included issues arising from unemployment, immigration, and even natural disaster. Shortly after arriving on Capitol Hill, Meek sought federal aid for her district, which encompassed Homestead, Florida, the town that bore the brunt of Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in August 1992. She used her Appropriations seat, however, principally to try to expand federal programs to create jobs and provide initiatives for blacks to open their own businesses. Meek also authored a measure to modify Social Security laws to cover household workers. On behalf of the Haitian community in her district, Meek sought to extend the period of stay in the country for immigrants and refugees excluded from two 1997 bills addressing Central American immigration. In 1999, she worked to get a more accurate census count in her district by providing a measure whereby welfare recipients familiar with their poor, traditionally undercounted neighborhoods could temporarily work as census employees without losing their benefits.4

On issues of national scope, Meek developed a cooperative and congenial style punctuated with partisan episodes. For instance, she was able to work with Republicans to change cigarette label warnings, to reflect the fact that a higher number of African Americans suffer from several smoking-related diseases. She also worked with Republican Anne Northup of Kentucky to increase funding for lupus disease research and to provide federal grants for college students with poor reading skills due to learning disabilities.5 But, in early 1995, amid the controversy surrounding Speaker Newt Gingrich’s $4.5 million book advance, Meek denounced him on the House Floor. “If anything, now, how much the Speaker earns has grown much more dependent upon how hard his publishing house hawks his book,” Meek said. “Which leads me to the question of exactly who does this Speaker really work for.… Is it the American people or his New York publishing house?” Republicans shouted Meek down and struck her remarks from the Congressional Record.6 She also charged that Republicans were balancing the budget on the backs of America’s working poor, elderly, and infirm by gutting the welfare system. “The spending cuts that the House approved today fall mainly on the weakest members of our society, on the sick and on the elderly,” she said in June 1997. “Tomorrow we will be voting on tax cuts that mainly favor the wealthy.… Today, the House voted to rob from the poor so that tomorrow the majority can help the rich.”7

In 2002, citing her age, Meek declined to seek certain re-election to a sixth term. When Kendrick Meek won the November 2002 general election, he became just the second child to directly succeed his mother in Congress.[3]

Supported by Council for a Livable World

The Council for a Livable World, founded in 1962 by long-time socialist activist and alleged Soviet agent, Leo Szilard, is a non-profit advocacy organization that seeks to "reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and increase national security", primarily through supporting progressive, congressional candidates who support their policies. The Council supported Carrie Meek in his successful House of Representatives run as candidate for Florida.[4]

Congressional Progressive Caucus

In 1998 Carrie Meek Democrat was listed as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[5]

DSA endorsement

In July 1996, the Democratic Socialists of America Political Action Committee endorsed Carrie P. Meek, Florida 17, in that year's Congressional elections.[6]

DSA connection

Democratic Left, Fall 2000, page 31

According to local contact Donald Donato, in 2000, South Florida Democratic Socialists of America Organizing Committee, "will be holding a General Meeting in September to formally constitute itself as a DSA Local and will soon have a website up and running. We have identified several key people for the five-member coordinating committee that will be the platform and medium for our action plan, including one congresswoman from Miami, Carrie Meek, who is a Steering Committee member of the Progressive Caucus. Our immediate goal is to deal with the overall problem of a lack of a forceful and thriving, public political left in the Sunshine State". [7]

EMILY's List

Meek has been supported by EMILY's List during her campaigning.