Uncle Luke for Congress? Luther Campbell, rapper turned civic activist, preparing to challenge congresswoman (2024)

Luther Campbell, the civic and political activist who jolted the establishment status quo decades ago with his raunchy lyrics, has a new way to shake things up: challenging a sitting Florida congresswoman in a Democratic primary.

Publicly, Campbell hasn’t decided. But he’s been teasing a candidacy — sometimes in unorthodox ways even by current-day routines of celebrity politicians — in a way that makes it sound as if he’s going to run.

“I’m still on this fact-finding mission to figure out whether or not I’m gonna run for Congress,” Campbell said in a social media video posted on April 9, adding, “It’s gonna be very hard for me not to run. Let’s put it that way.”

In a subsequent interview with WFOR-Ch. 4, he edged closer. “I’m really leaning towards running. I’m really leaning because,” he said, there’s “nothing telling me that I shouldn’t do it.”

A decision has to come quickly. Even though the primary isn’t until August, Florida congressional candidates face a Friday, April 26, deadline to qualify to get on the ballot. In one of his many social media posts about running, Campbell promised a decision two days before the deadline.

Campbell, better known to many as Luke Skyywalker and later Uncle Luke from his career as a rap artist, would be challenging U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who is in her third year representing a Broward-Palm Beach county district.

He’s also known for his civic activism and coaching youth sports in Miami-Dade County, where he successfully ran for county mayor in 2011. Records show he’s a longtime registered voter in Miramar.

A Campbell candidacy would instantly make the primary contest one of South Florida’s highest profile, attention grabbing and unorthodox campaigns of 2024.

Unconventional path

Campbell exploded in the public consciousness as the leader of the rap group 2 Live Crew.

A federal judge in South Florida declared the lyrics of its platinum-selling album “Nasty As They Wanna Be” were obscene, a ruling eventually overturned by an appeals court.

In meantime, then-Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro had Campbell and other members of 2 Live Crew arrested in 1990 on obscenity charges after they performed at a club in Hollywood. The jury found them not guilty.

One response was another song, “F— Martinez,” about then-Gov. Bob Martinez, who considered the album obscene and wanted legal action against the group. The lyrics also took aim at the sheriff with the line, “F— Navarro. F— F— Navarro.”

In recent years he’s been a civic and political activist, a columnist, and has promoted and coached sports programs for inner city youth.

In 2011, he ran for mayor of Miami-Dade County, finishing in fourth place with 11% of the vote.

He remains unconventional as a candidate.

In a social media post on Friday he wrote that “politicians are nothing but a bunch of bums.” He also included an obscene adjective to describe what kind of bums he was talking about. In a recent podcast interview, he wondered about Cherfilus-McCormick “what the … has this lady done.” He used the same four-letter word used for Martinez and Navarro.

Also on Friday, his social media promoted “Freaknik 4/20,” an event he’s hosting Saturday night at a gentlemen’s club in Jacksonville that features “over 20 of the cities finest ladies.”

Why run?

In an interview on the WFOR-Ch. 4 “Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede” program, Campbell said the needs of people who live in the 20th Congressional District aren’t being addressed. “Either you’re gonna sit on the sideline or you’re gonna get in the game and try to make some change,” he said.

He cited homelessness and water issues in Riviera Beach, people in the Belle Glade in western Palm Beach County have been hurt “where the machines have taken over the jobs and no longer the people are cutting the sugar cane.”

And, he said, “some parts of Broward County (look) like a third-world country.” He later specified schools, including a high school in Lauderdale Lakes: “You go up in Broward and you go to some of these schools like Boyd Anderson and you look at, as soon as you pull in the parking lot it looks like a third-world country.”

Campbell said Black leaders currently in power aren’t able to adequately push back. “The majority of African American congressmen and women, I mean they’re old. They’re tired, they ain’t got no more fight in them. They need somebody to go up there and fight for them,” he said on WFOR before adding criticism of all politicians.

Campbell is 63. Cherfilus-McCormick is 45.

“Politicians lie. They lie all the time. They lie to the people,” he told WFOR.

He was especially critical of the Republican Party, and said it’s been on a negative trajectory from the tea party era in 2010 through today. “You see the party, the Republican Party in the direction that they’re going, they’re really bullying African Americans, African Americans get bullied on every level of politics.”

And, Campbell said, he wasn’t worried that serving in Congress would make it a circus. “It’s a circus already,” he told WFOR.

No additional comment

His potential candidacy was first reported by the political news site The Bulwark. He’s discussed his potential candidacy in multiple social media posts and videos and as a podcast guest.

He told the TV station he was declining all other interview requests. Campbell didn’t respond to multiple email, text and voicemail requests for comment left with multiple representatives.

Earlier this year, Campbell registered a political action committee calledDon’t Stop Get It Get It with the Federal Election Commission. Earlier this month a super PAC with the same name registered with the FEC.

Serious candidacy?

The Bulwark reported that Campbell was being trailed by a documentary film crew, but he told WFOR he wouldn’t run just as a way to obtain footage for a reality show. “It’s not a thing for a TV show or anything like that.”

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said Campbell should be taken seriously if he decides to run.

“He’s resourceful. He definitely has an eye for those who are not represented or underrepresented. I would pay attention to him,” Messam said. “I would definitely take him seriously.”

Most people know him for his court fight over obscenity charges and his music career, Messam said. “But I also know him as an activist in the community.”

Messam also said Cherfilus-McCormick “hit the ground running in Congress and is representing (us) in Congress as well, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how all this plays.”

Chris Smith, a former Democratic leader in both the Florida Senate and in the Florida House of Representatives, said when he was in high school he was among the people who picketed on behalf of Campbell and 2 Live Crew at the federal courthouse.

“When Navarro locked him up, I was in front of the federal courthouse on his behalf. That doesn’t make him my Broward congressman.”

Campbell’s activism in Miami-Dade County doesn’t necessarily give him connections to a district based in central Broward and takes in a large share of Palm Beach County. “It doesn’t seem plausible.

“That is not a community that you can just pop up (in) based on your stardom and move to the front of the line,” Smith said. It would be hard, Smith said, because “it’s not a stardom that says ‘Send me to Congress.’”

Uncle Luke for Congress? Luther Campbell, rapper turned civic activist, preparing to challenge congresswoman (1)

Criticizing incumbent

Campbell has offered multiple critiques of the incumbent, though he doesn’t use her name.

Campbell told the “Because Miami” podcast that voters have told him “we supported this young lady and once she got in, she turned into a diva. We can’t find her. She comes in and has one meeting and sends staff and nothing basically has gotten done.”

Cherfilus-McCormick, a lawyer who had previously been CEO of a family owned home health care company self funded her previous campaigns. “When you pay for the seat you really don’t have a genuine love for the actual community,” he said on the podcast.

Campbell would bring name recognition to the contest, but Cherfilus-McCormick would be a formidable opponent.

Cherfilus-McCormick defeated 10 other candidates in a special primary election to choose a Democratic nominee to succeed the late Congressman Alcee Hastings. In early 2022 she easily won the special general election and then a full term later that year.

Neither Cherfilus-McCormick nor her campaign responded to a request for comment.

Mitch Ceasar, a former Broward Democratic Party chair who has served as a legal counsel to the Cherfilus-McCormick campaign in the past but isn’t currently working for her, said he is “sure the congresswoman takes every potential challenge seriously.”

“The voters of the district need a constantly hardworking individual. That’s Sheila,” Ceasar said. “She’s all about hard work and not about pseudo documentaries.”


Campbell did not offer specifics on two key issues in the WFOR interview.

Asked about his position in relation to support for Israel after the Hamas terrorist attacks, Campbell said, “I’m for peace,” adding that the war “has been going on too long, you know. There has to be a solution to it.”

Campbell said he could contribute to a solution in Haiti. He said he would “hop on an airplane right now and go have a conversation with Barbecue.” Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer, is the Haitian gang leader known as “Barbecue.” Campbell said the U.S. has had conversions with “more notorious gangsters than this young man. … You need to hear him out, hear what the issues are.”

Cherfilus-McCormick, the only Haitian American member of Congress, has been outspoken on the issue, pressing the Biden administration, Republicans in Congress and the international community.

Cherfilus-McCormick has taken a hard line on gang leaders like Chérizier, who are responsible for the deadly violence that has caused chaos in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. She said they must have no role in the interim government the international community hopes moves Haiti toward a diminution of violence.

Uncle Luke for Congress? Luther Campbell, rapper turned civic activist, preparing to challenge congresswoman (2)

The district

The 20th Congressional District takes in most of the African American and Caribbean American communities in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

It includes much of central Broward, including all or parts of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation, Lauderhill, North Lauderhill, Sunrise and Tamarac. It also takes in a large swath of the Everglades and goes north to the Glades communities near Lake Okeechobee and extends back east to include parts of Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach.

The district is one of the most heavily Democratic in the nation. And the partisan voting index from the independent Cook Political Report rates the district as D plus 25, which means it performed 25 points more Democratic than the nation during the past two presidential contests.

It is so Democratic that the winner of the Aug. 20 primary is all-but-guaranteed to win the November election and serve a term in the House of Representatives.

Information from Sun Sentinel archives was used in this report.

Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sunsentinel.com and can be found @browardpolitics on Bluesky, Threads, Facebook and Post.news.

Uncle Luke for Congress? Luther Campbell, rapper turned civic activist, preparing to challenge congresswoman (2024)
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