The Florida Democrat is forming a congressional caucus devoted to, yes, sneakers.

Anthony Man | South Florida Sun Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz wears sneakers just about everywhere: to his swearing in as a member of Congress, to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address — even at his wedding party.

How committed is he to sneakers? “Besides maybe the White House, no place where I would not wear my sneakers come to mind,” Moskowitz said via text.

Now the Broward-Palm Beach county Democrat is forming a congressional caucus devoted to, yes, sneakers.

U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., wears sneakers just about everywhere. (Congressman Jared Moskowitz/TNS)

It’s not as grave a subject as gun violence, antisemitism, LGBTQ rights, or climate change, all of which are among the subject matters of congressional caucuses. But Moskowitz has just as serious purpose in mind: bringing together people who have a shared love of the footwear in an attempt to promote social connections in the often bitterly divided Congress.

If Democratic and Republican members of Congress can develop connections via the Bipartisan Congressional Sneaker Caucus and get to know each other, his reasoning goes, they might ultimately be able to begin bridging the gap on major issues facing the country.

“Since I’ve been in Washington, I’ve noticed that there’s very little social interaction between Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

But, he said, sneakers have often been a starting point for conversations with his new colleagues.

“The Sneaker Caucus will organize events around style, culture, and philanthropy and use that to have members of Congress who wouldn’t normally interact get to know one another,” he said. “I want to get Democrats and Republicans in a room together. Unfortunately in Washington there are very few opportunities where that happens.”

Congressman Jared Moskowitz wearing sneakers. (Congressman Jared Moskowitz/TNS)

He is being joined by U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, an Oregon Republican, in launching the Sneaker Caucus on Thursday. ”From expressing style to demonstrating athleticism and innovation, sneakers are a fun part of our culture. It will be a light-hearted way to build relationships with other members of Congress and our constituents,” Chavez-DeRemer said in a statement.

Sean Foreman, a political scientist at Barry University, said there “are many examples of people working in a bipartisan fashion because they met on a committee or they had their offices located next to each other and they struck up a relationship that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”

It’s an old tradition that has fallen out of favor in today’s hyperpartisan era in which “voters seem to be rewarding people who work only with their own party, who are warriors against the other party.”

“This is what we need: new ideas and new attempts to bring people together,” he said. Foreman said the Sneaker Caucus is akin to “planting seeds” that might ultimately produce results.

“You’re not going to solve the debt crisis in one or two meals. But the more you have people seeing each other as humans and working together for common goals — which sounds so simple because that’s what’s expected in Congress, but has not been the common practice in recent years — then you can start to build on solutions that may come to fruition in months or years,” Foreman said.

“This is the first step in building relations, and then let’s see if we can work together,” he said. “You’ve got to get over that initial hurdle.”

Moskowitz has experience working with members of the other party. As a Democrat in the Republican-controlled Florida state House of Representatives in Tallahassee, he was able to pass legislation. And he was state director of emergency management under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“He’s a moderate and a guy with a history of bipartisan work, and so he presents a good opportunity to restart this [approach] among people of his generation,” Foreman said.

At age 42, Moskowitz could be in Congress well into the future.

His Broward-Palm Beach county 23rd Congressional District is rated as “likely Democrat” in the 2024 election by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Seats with a “likely” rating “are not considered competitive at this point, but have the potential to become engaged.”

He won his first term in November, and the first campaign for reelection is the most perilous. But no challengers have filed with the state Division of Elections or the Federal Elections Commission indicating plans to run or to raise money for a race. Joe Budd, the Republican who narrowly lost to Moskowitz last year, has previously said he might run again. In a group email to supporters Wednesday about “my current political activities,” he said Moskowitz “failed” with his first vote in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla. likes to wear sneakers just about everywhere. (Congressman Jared Moskowitz/TNS)

Moskowitz isn’t the only sneakerhead on Capitol Hill.

A profile of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. in described him as a “sneakers and suit-wearing congressman.”

Last year, when Moskowitz was a candidate, Jeffries arrived to a meeting in Fort Lauderdale wearing sneakers. Moskowitz said Jeffries told him then that sneakers are allowed on the House floor (men are required to wear ties) and he knew what he’d be wearing if he won.

Kicks have an emotional resonance for Moskowitz, who said he owns more than 100 pairs.

His father, Mike Moskowitz, would bring him to Foot Locker to wait in line before the store opened so he could get the latest releases when they went on sale. “It was something my father and I did together.”

Mike Moskowitz died in January 2022 of pancreatic cancer, so he never had the chance to see his son run for Congress, and win, something they had talked about for years. “The sneakers I wear across the Capitol represent a pathway back to my childhood and a connection to the next generation.”

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