Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Ehr on July 24, 2023 (photo credit: Mitch Perry screenshot from Zoom interview.
Republicans this year have been bashing President Joe Biden’s tenure related to U.S. Department of Defense policies that allegedly harm military readiness.
To which Phil Ehr replies is simply a “bunch of hooey.”
Ehr, 62 and a Navy veteran, announced his candidacy last week to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Florida. He is passionate in pushing back on the notion that espousing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies are bad for our armed forces.
“We have the world’s strongest fighting force because we have openly critical thought. We teach people how to think. We don’t tell people what to think,” Ehr told the Phoenix earlier this week in a Zoom interview from his home in Miami. Ehr is competing against Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who also is a Navy veteran.
“And those people say ‘well you have DEI, [which] is really teaching them what to think.’ That’s wrong. That is so wrong because we need to have a military that is connected to our population. Our population is diverse, and our military needs to be inclusive to the point of only excellence in the jobs that people come into, but not drifting back to what a lot of human nature sometimes does is – that goes into our own racial and economic and religious …for lack of a better word, and there is a better word, I just don’t know what it is – back into our tribes. We can’t do that. We must be an inclusive force because that is the strongest force. It makes our operational readiness good and robust. So when there’s criticism to this term diversity, equity and inclusion, well I’m thinking that’s the same thing as criticizing our national motto which is e, pluribus unum – out of many, one. DEI is just a way to implement it in today’s world.”
Ehr also discussed the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago, Ehr has been involved in humanitarian efforts to help the Ukrainian people, and he considers it crucial that the U.S. and NATO are able to block Vladimir Putin’s ambitions there.
“My overall view is that the president is handling it well, but not aggressive enough,” Ehr says, adding that Biden has “masterfully” held the alliance together. He also admits that unlike his time in the Navy, he’s now on the outside looking in when it comes to understanding the military strategy.
“So when I have criticisms – and I do – about the speed with which different weapons systems are going into Ukraine and the messaging, it is with the humble acknowledgement that I don’t know the negotiations with Germany, with Hungary, with the Baltic states, but I do know that there’s fierce commitment to freedom and liberty by those countries – most of them – who have survived the Soviet Union and have broken off from them, become independent from them – the Baltic states, Poland. Those countries know what it’s like to be under the boot of the Soviets back then, and of Putin now.”
A Harvard/Harris poll released last week of more than 2,000 registered voters found that the public is split 50-50% when asked if they support or oppose providing more funding to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion of the country. And 70 House Republicans recently voted in favor of an amendment to the annual defense bill that would have cut off all U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
“I acknowledge that there are people who are tired of spending a lot of money, but I would challenge them to think about the benefit that we are getting by being the arsenal of democracy,” Ehr says, adding that he feels that it is “money well spent.”
There are a handful of other Democrats already in the race for the U.S. Senate in 2024. One of them, former Central Florida Congressman Alan Grayson told the Phoenix Tuesday that, “I have been working to assemble what is needed for the type of campaign I want, particularly the party-building of it.”
Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell and former South Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell have all been reported to be considering a run for the seat as well.
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