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20th Congressional District Race To Replace Longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings Turns Combative

POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) -- Broward Sheriff deputies were called to an early voting location Friday in Pompano Beach after a dispute arose between the Republican candidate in the 20th Congressional District race and workers from his opponent's campaign.

"I pull up and I get a death threat," Jason Mariner told CBS4 News as they arrived to interview him for a profile piece leading up to the general election on Tuesday.

BSO didn't make any arrests. According to Mariner's opponent, there was a similar dispute at the African American research library early voting site in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.

"Once you have police, that's a tactic for voter suppression," said Democratic contender Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

The race to replace longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings, who died last April, has turned combative in the final days leading to the general elections.

Mariner says he thinks he has a shot to win the seat in this heavily Democratic congressional district that stretches from Broward to Palm Beach County.

"When I talk to people, I don't base it on what they look like. I ask what can I do for you and the answer is always the same. We want to protect our jobs, our kids and make our communities safer," he says.

Mariner is open about his past struggles with drugs and serving jail time. He says it offers hope to voters.

"It's easy to draw a box around yourself and say I'm finished. I decided not to listen to it."

When CBS4 News spoke to Democratic contender Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick on Friday, she said she was disturbed about what she sees going on at polling places in largely African American communities.

"We need to make sure we are vigilant so no one feels intimidated especially with the big midterm elections later this year," she said.

Cherfilus-McCormick, a Haitian-American, beat former Broward Mayor Dale Holness by just five votes last November to win the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat.

An attorney and healthcare executive, she supports progressive ideas like Medicare for all and a $1,000 a month universal basic income.

"My biggest focus will be to pass the build-back plan because it will help our community. Housing is a big issue too," she said.

Housing is a monumental issue in the 20th District, where families struggle to buy a house and the median income is a mere $50,000.

"We need someone who can negotiate policies and help the people," she said.

Early voting ends Sunday. The election for the 20th Congressional seat is Tuesday, January 11th.

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