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Democratic voters in Broward County are deciding if they want to send Rosalind Osgood or Terry Ann Williams Edden to the general election for the county’s Florida Senate seat. Their choice is between two candidates who have several similarities, as well as major differences.
The candidates’ views are similar on many high-profile issues: Florida’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (poor), Gov. Ron DeSantis’ performance in office (lousy), the death penalty (oppose), how they’d vote in Senate confirmation on DeSantis’ pick for Florida surgeon general (no), and action by Republicans who control state government to make voting by mail more difficult (oppose).
Both are women in their mid-50s who have long been active in civic affairs. And both have run for office repeatedly in the past.
The results, however, have been quite different.
Osgood has been successful, having been elected to the Broward School Board three times, where she has served since 2012. Williams Edden has unsuccessfully run for office three times.
Osgood has a much higher profile than Williams Edden.
Elected by fellow School Board members as their chairwoman, she served as the board’s public face during high profile controversies over former Superintendent Robert Runcie and the requirement that students and staff wear masks earlier this year to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Osgood was a prominent supporter of Runcie, one of the most prominent Black leaders in Broward County. And she led the Broward School District’s resolve to require masking in the face of opposition from DeSantis.
Aside from the School Board, Osgood, 56, is an associate pastor at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, one of the biggest, most important Black churches in Fort Lauderdale, where she resides.
Terry Ann Williams Edden, left, who has unsuccessfully run for office three times, is competing with Rosalind Osgood, who won election three times to the Broward County School Board, in a special primary election for a Florida State Senate nomination in January 2022. (Courtesy)
She is also CEO of the Mount Olive Development Corp., which operates a range of programs in the community, including assistance for low-income families, a senior center and housing for people returning to the civilian population after serving prison sentences.
Osgood said she was addicted to cocaine decades ago and at the time had two arrests for cocaine possession.
She has been in recovery for more than 30 years — since Dec. 2, 1989 — and became involved in politics when she was part of a group that lobbied the late U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, in favor of educational programs as Congress and then-President Bill Clinton were changing the nation’s welfare system in the 1990s.
Such experience, Osgood said, will help her in Republican-controlled Tallahassee. Even though she’s opposed DeSantis on high-profile issues — and said he “threatens our democracy” — Osgood said she isn’t running for the Senate with the goal of fighting with the governor.
“My work here has shown this community that I’m committed to them, that I’m going to serve them,” Osgood said, describing herself as “the only one in this race that has experienced working with other policy makers in the community to get tangible results.”
Though her past runs for office haven’t been successful, Williams Edden, 55, isn’t unknown. In the August 2020 primary for the same seat she’s now seeking, she received 24% of the vote.
Williams Edden also unsuccessfully ran for Florida Senate in 2008 and for the Broward County Commission in 2014.
She says she’s been a civil rights activist for decades, and said she was active in education in the past. “I worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson many years ago before the current person [Osgood] was involved.”
Professionally, Williams Edden is a legal assistant in the domestic violence unit of the Broward state attorney’s office and owns Edden Consulting, which she said helps people with legal problems such as employment discrimination case forms. She lives in Pompano Beach.
Williams Edden described herself as “the best qualified candidate” to serve in the state of Florida. “I’m just as qualified as anyone else,” she said in an interview with the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.
Williams Edden said DeSantis “seems to be abdicating his seat” since his first day in office. “I say this because he seems to have been campaigning for president long before doing the job description of a Florida governor.”
The candidate’s clearly don’t care for one another, and displayed an unusual level of public animosity during a joint interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial board.
Williams Edden: “Don’t try to be condescending that, oh, because I’m not in office I don’t understand.”
Osgood: “It’s interesting when you continue to hear — I don’t know if it’s misunderstanding or lies.”
Osgood: “Don’t say something that I didn’t say … you can’t lie and slander people’s names with misinformation like that. That shows you lack in integrity.”
Williams Edden: “I don’t watch you. I get the calls about you … Nobody’s lying about you.”
They also disagree about outgoing state Sen. Perry Thurston, the senator they’re seeking to succeed.
“I don’t believe in bashing him,” Williams Edden said, then faulted him for what she said was inadequate state money coming back to the district. She said Thurston was too inclined to blame the Republican majority in Tallahassee for what he couldn’t achieve.
Osgood said it’s easy for people who aren’t in office to criticize those who are. She said she worked with Thurston and outgoing state Rep. Bobby DuBose to get a Covid vaccination site at Mount Hermon AME Church, a central location in Fort Lauderdale’s Black community.
Osgood credited Thurston with leading efforts, which haven’t been successful, to repeal the Florida Stand Your Ground law, which allows a person to use deadly force if they believe “it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.”
The Jan. 11 special primary — mail voting is already underway — is one of the ripple effects that started with the April 6 death of Congressman Alcee Hastings.
Thurston ran in the special Democratic primary for the nomination to succeed Hastings. The state’s resign-to-run law required him give up the Senate seat. Even though Thurston lost, his resignation, effective at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10, is irrevocable.
Florida is a closed primary state, which means only Democrats can vote in the Jan. 11 primary. Republican Joseph C. Carter will be on the March 8 special election ballot.
The district’s registered voters are 63% Democratic, 25% no party affiliation/independent/minor party, and 12% Republican.
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The winner of the special election — likely Osgood or Williams Edden, based in the political leanings of the district’s voters — won’t be certified until after the scheduled March 11 adjournment of the legislative session.
That means the district’s voters won’t have a voice when lawmakers decide on the once-a-decade change to the boundaries of all the state’s congressional and legislative districts, consider restrictions on access to abortions and divide up the state’s $100 billion annual budget.
The 33rd Senate District includes northwest Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale and parts of Sunrise, Tamarac, Margate, Pompano Beach and Oakland Park.