We already know who lost the CD-20 election: Big Sugar

In the Jan. 11 special election for the Congressional District 20 seat, we have a pretty good idea who’ll win. But we also know who won’t:

Big Sugar.

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is heavily favored in the left-leaning district, where she squares off against Republican Jason Mariner, Libertarian Mike ter Maat and no-party-affiliation candidates Jim Flynn and Leonard Serratore, all seeking to fill the seat previously held by the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.

If Cherfilus-McCormick wins as expected, she won’t be just a new face — she’ll represent a new, sugar-free approach.

District 20, which encompasses much of western Palm Beach County and Glades communities, is right in Big Sugar’s backyard. And over the years industry interests donated extensively to Congressman Hastings.

But Cherfilus-McCormick didn’t take any sugar money, largely financing her own campaign in both the primary and now the special election.

And in the past, she’s had some very disparaging things to say about Big Sugar — for example, telling the VoteWater team in 2020 that the industry “has silenced legislators by donating large amounts to their campaigns” and insisting that “all industries that take part in practices that jeopardize human health through pollution must be regulated and fined.”

More recently, she told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper she opposed burning sugarcane fields before harvest and supported congressional hearings on the environmental and health impacts of the controversial practice, which blankets communities in the Glades region with harmful smoke and ash.

That probably rankled Florida’s sugar barons, who prefer compliant politicians.

But Cherfilus-McCormick has proven that even in sugar country, you don’t need sugar campaign cash to win. Indeed, as media reports of the harm caused by sugar cane burning and other industry depredations continue to mount, taking money from Big Sugar could actually become a liability.

A vote for Cherfilus-McCormick Jan. 11 is a vote to curtail the toxic influence of Big Sugar money in politics, and to free elected leaders like Cherfilus-McCormick to do what’s best for their constituents — rather than corporate kingmakers.