Voters can add fresh new voices to the Florida House. Here are the Herald’s choices| Editorial

Voters can add fresh new voices to the Florida House. Here are the Herald’s choices| Editorial

  • August 16, 2020
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From North Miami to Kendall to Key Biscayne and down the Florida Keys, Miami-Dade and Monroe county residents on Tuesday will select their voices in Tallahassee by voting for representative in the Florida House. Some races will be decided on Tuesday; others in November.

Here are our recommendations for the Aug. 18 primary:

HOUSE 102

Voters in this North Miami-Dade District, which spills into Broward — have three abundantly qualified and accomplished candidates from which to choose. (A meeting time could not be scheduled A fourth candidate, Dennis Hinds, did not respond to the Editorial Board’s invitation for an interview.)

Williams
Williams

Felicia Robinson is a former two-term Miami Gardens City Council member, elected in 2010. During her tenure, she made government more accessible to her constituents, creating several health-education programs and another worthwhile community conversation called “Meet Me Monday.” “I would bring in different people from the community and from outside the community — attorneys, financial advisers — so that my residents can become good advocates for themselves.”

The district encompasses Miami Gardens and runs north to include parts of Miramar and Pembroke Pines. That’s why Robinson says that the long-promised north transportation corridor should continue into Broward. “Transportation needs to be more connective,” she told the Editorial Board.

Matthew Tisdol has spend much of his career involved in social impact and social justice issues. He has worked with organizations on fair-housing and voting rights issues, and through lawsuits, successfully fought voter ID laws meant to suppress the minority vote. He has also taken banks to task for letting bank-owned properties deteriorate.

Raised by a Hispanic foster family, Tisdol says he would sit on the Hispanic caucus in the Florida House, which would allow him to better reach across the aisle to come to consensus on some issues.

We’re giving the edge to David Williams Jr., a Miami Gardens council member who, for more than three decades, has immersed himself improving the health and education of the communities he serves. He spent much of his career as an educator himself.

He is chair of the Jessie Trice Community Health Foundation, which helps a broader swath of the community access healthcare more easily. It has played a crucial role in getting people tested for the coronavirus.

He created a science fair not just to introduce students to career possibilities they might not otherwise see for themselves, but to also give them critical thinking skills. It has grown from 50 students, he says, to 800, and he has partnered with three universities in the endeavor.

He also has developed botanical gardens and science labs as teaching tools to supplement classroom education. He chaired the board of the Department of Children & Families.

Williams is clear about the need for better police training and a database to discourage other departments from hiring cops who have racked up keep cops who rack up misconduct complaints. He also would push for better stewardship of Florida’s fragile environment, which should help him get the ear of the governor, who has been an advocate for the environment, too.

The Herald recommends DAVID WILLIAMS JR. for Florida House District 102.

HOUSE 103

Rock-mine blasting is the issue of all issues in this district in northwest Miami-Dade, which crosses the border into Broward County.

Rodriguez
Rodriguez

Republican primary candidates Nelson Rodriguez, Miami Lakes commissioner, and attorney Tom Fabricio give Democratic incumbent Rep. Cindy Polo low marks for doing anything about it.

As it is for many homeowners in the district, for Rodriguez and Fabricio, the issue is personal, too. They both have experienced damage to their homes.

Both say that Polo could not build consensus around her efforts to get homeowners remediation. Fabricio spoke more generally about solutions, proposing to reduce the level of blasting, “then get remediation.”

Rodriguez, however, had a deeper understanding of the challenge. “I’d want to remove current legislation that keeps homeowners from suing blasters,” he said, “They have immunity that we need to look at.”

He said he wants to work with the rock miners — the state is a customer for the lime rock — and move blasting further west.

It’s specifics such as these that make the Rodriguez the better candidate in this race.

A Coral Gables firefighter for three decades, Rodriguez says that Gov. DeSantis did a good job securing supplies such as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. But he breaks ranks and rightly says, emphatically, the governor should have imposed a mandate for everyone to wear masks to suppress the spread of the coronavirus and prevent survivor. the surge. Again, it’s personal — Rodriguez is a COVID survivor. Fabricio stressed the government giving residents adequate information on the virus and taking personal responsibility.

Both candidates lament that the resident of Hialeah and Hialeah . Rodriguez goes a step further, complaining that there is nothing in the county’s SMART plan to provide mass transit in the Northwest Miami-Dade District.

Both are comfortable with school choice and using public money to fund charter schools. However, Rodriguez does not support Floridians paying for for-profit schools’ new buildings.

We think Rodriguez’s experience as a local elected official make him a good candidate for the state House.

In the Republican primary, the Miami Herald recommends NELSON RODRIGUEZ for Florida House District 103.

HOUSE 105

Two Democrats will face each other and three Republicans will do the same. The winners in each primary race will face each other in the general election in November to replace Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who is running for the state Senate.

REPUBLICAN

Sweetwater Commissioner David Borrero participated in the Editorial Board’s candidate interview, then later told us that he did not want our recommendation. Pedro Barrios did not respond to our invitation.

Potestad
Potestad

That leaves Bibiana Potestad, who ran for this seat in 2018. She is an energetic young attorney who say that she is called to public service.

She said that the COVID economy and safety are the issues that run throughout this rambling district, which takes in parts of Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties. “We need to make sure that we stand behind small businesses and reduce their liability,” she told the Board, “otherwise, they will close.”

Rather than cut police department budgets, as per the cry of many advocates for criminal justice reform, Potestad would give the police more resources, she says. “They are underfunded, the training could be better, but I am not in favor of defunding the police.”

She told the Board that Gov. DeSantis has done a good job handling the COVID-19 pandemic, “given the hand that he was dealt.”

Potestad would be a reliable conservative vote in the state House, but doesn’t think every issue should be a partisan one, especially when it comes to climate change and protecting the environment.

In the Republican primary, the Miami Herald recommends BIBIANA POTESTAD for Florida House District 105.

DEMOCRAT

There are two attractive candidates on the Democratic side of this race: Javier Estevez and Maureen Porras. Estevez ran for this seat in 2018, losing by a smidge to Ana Maria Rodriguez. He says that the district been ignored, especially in the area of healthcare affordability.

Porras
Porras

He would push to expand Medicaid and KidCare, increasing the maximum qualifying limit on families’ income in order to cover more children. He also wants to see Sadowski trust fund money, which is supposed to provide desperately needed affordable housing used “in the right way,” he says, meaning not raided and diverted to general revenue as has been lawmakers’ bad habit.

Porras is an attorney with the Church World Service, located in Doral. “I run nine legal departments in six states, training staff and meeting the demands of the community.” Her focus is on clients who come to her with immigration issues. She says she works with 6,000 people a year.

“My law training can help me legislate. I have a vision of a unified 105. It’s so large that people feel left out,” Porras said, echoing other candidates in this race. “I want to put best interests before special interests.” Strengthening Florida’s weak healthcare and unemployment systems are priorities for her.

She also echoes broader calls for social justice, spurred by George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis this year. “Criminal justice reform has been a pillar of my campaign.” This would include ending the cash bail system and severing the school-to-prison pipeline.

She says that rather than raise taxes, Florida’s corporate tax structure must change. She wants to “level the playing field” between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. She’s right — Florida is losing billions because it does not charge taxes on all internet sales. It’s one of only two states that do not do so. Missouri is the other.

Porras says that the state should “make sure we enact laws to force companies to collect and remit taxes.”

For a first-time candidate, Porras seems well-prepared to advocate for her issues, reach across the aisle and score some legislative wins for her district.

In the Democratic primary, the Miami Herald recommends MAUREEN PORRAS for Florida House District 105.

DISTRICT 107

Christopher Benjamin, one of the candidates in this race to replace state Rep. Barbara Watson, who is term-limited, said of his challenger, Ulysses Harvard: “We both care about this community. We both have been active in this community. We both have gone about trying to . . . address different issues in the community. But we’ve both gone about it in different manners.”

Benjamin
Benjamin

According to Benjamin, he has been preparing for elected officer most of his professional career: political science degree, interning with former Rep. Carrie Meek, law school, interning in an office of public affairs. He is a practicing attorney and a traffic magistrate. He has been appointed to several county boards, including the Commission on Human Rights, Parks and Recreation and the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust.

Harvard is an insurance broker who in 2005, was appointed to the Miami Gardens City Council to replace Audrey King, who had died during her term. Harvard finished out King’s term, serving for about one year.

Harvard has been a connected community leader who has helped district residents clear a number of challenges. As he told the Herald: “I know the people. They know me. . . . I’ve been here all of my life, for the last 63 years, and about 35 or more of those have been doing things out in the community, hands on,”

We think Benjamin’s professional trajectory and commitment to public service make him the better candidate for District 107. He’s clear-eyed on what needs to happen. The coronavirus has only heightened long-standing challenges: housing, unemployment and healthcare. “The pandemic has exacerbated the people who need access to affordable healthcare,” he says. That’s why he would push the governor to expand Medicaid.

Benjamin applauds the lengthened moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, but says that property owners need relief, too. “Foreclosure delays, loan modifications, mortgage relief — we will see courts inundated with these cases,” Benjamin says.

During the mortgage meltdown, Benjamin says, there was “mandatory mediation.” He says that could help the property owners now. In addition, he says that, perhaps, the Sadowski Trust Fund for affordable housing could be used to provide rent relief.

Benjamin told the Editorial Board that practicing law “allowed me to see the practical application of the law on individuals’ lives. Through law is how we change the quality of life for everyday people.”

The Miami Herald recommends CHRISTOPHER BENJAMIN for Florida House District 107.

HOUSE 108

Democratic incumbent State Rep. Dotie Joseph faces two challengers former State Rep. Roy Hardemon, and Georges Bossous Jr., who says that Joseph has fallen down on the job of representing the district.

Joseph
Joseph

Hardemon, whom Joseph defeated in 2018, hopes to regain the seat in which, he told the Editorial Board, he had a successful term and brought home some bacon: money for crime prevention programs, sidewalk improvements and job creation, among other things.

Bossous says of Joseph, “She has not fought for this district.” Yet he speaks in vague terms about what he would want to accomplish in the Legislature and how he would do it. Joseph alleges that Bossous is in the race only to siphon off the district’s Haitian-American voters, allowing Hardemon to reclaim the seat.

Bossous denies the accusation; so does Hardemon.

Actually, Joseph has been a persistent fighter for the district that takes in Biscayne Park, Miami Shores, El Portal, Little Haiti and downtown Miami. The record shows that she is an effective legislator, especially considering she’s a junior member of the minority party in Tallahassee.

She has sponsored more than 40 bills, many centered on public safety issues. Several passed, including one that allows victims of domestic violence to qualify for unemployment on that basis and another that, by partnering with a Republican colleague, secured $6 million for a young man shot in the back by police and paralyzed.

She makes sure food pantries have the supplies and products they need for low-income residents.

Because not everyone has a car, Joseph says that she initiated a partnership with the state and Miami-Dade to establish the county’s first walk-up coronavirus testing site in the county’s north, making sure the health professionals there speak Haitian Creole and that residents understand that immigration status is irrelevant.

And she has gotten private donors to provide face masks for her constituents.

If re-elected, she vows to work to bring more affordable housing and healthcare to the district, where many live paycheck to paycheck, even more now in the middle of a pandemic.

In the past, we’ve expressed concerns about Hardemon’s lengthy arrest record for trespassing and disorderly conduct and more serious charges of armed burglary, battery, criminal mischief and kidnapping. Felony charges were dropped or pleaded down.Then there were arrests for what Hardemon has called “domestic issues.”

Additionally, given Bossous’ lack of familiarity with the issues and the incumbent’s record of accomplishments, the Miami Herald recommends DOTIE JOSEPH for Florida House District 108.

HOUSE 112

The Republican primary race to challenge Democratic incumbent Nicholas X. Duran, signals a political comeback effort for former Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who served in the Legislature at the start of his political career.

Palomino
Palomino

He is pitted against Rosa Maria “Rosy” Palomino, a perennial candidate whose time might have arrived. In 2018, Barreiro gave up his commission seat for an unsuccessful bid in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. He lost the Republican primary to Maria Elvira Salazar, who was defeated in the general election by Democrat Donna Shalala. This is Barreiro’s 11th campaign in 18 years.

Palomino is a former Miami City Commission candidate who has run for this district seat twice before and was defeated by Duran.

The problem is, neither candidate is all that conversant in the issues, and they speak way too much in generalities. It’s disappointing in a public servant who has been around as long as Barreiro has. At that’s why we are recommending Palomino.

A Miami-Dade public school teacher, small-business owner and long-time community activ”ist, Palomino has acquired grassroots knowledge of District 112 and government policy, in general. She says she is a lifelong resident of the district, which extends from downtown Miami into parts of Little Havana, Shenandoah and across to Key Biscayne.

Barreiro, who runs a home healthcare agency, says he misses public service. He says the district, where he has name recognition, needs a Republican. “It’s about time for District 112 to get a representative who is in the majority party in Tallahassee so we can get things done,” he told the Board. Beyond that, he would work to improve mass transit, provide affordable housing and fix the “too low” bridges along the Rickenbacker Causeway. As for how Gov. DeSantis handled the galloping pandemic, he says: “Hindsight is always 20/20. . . . Could there have been a better tactic or a better way to deploy resources, maybe.”

Palomino says 2021 will be a tough budgetary year in Tallahassee and locally, thanks to COVID-19. “Cities are going to be hurting financially,” she says. “What the pandemic has done to small businesses is incredible.” She’ll push for for clean-water initiatives in the state ad for insurance reform, a concern of the district’s elderly in the district.

Surprisingly, she got very specific on the need for criminal justice reform, telling the Editorial Board that prior convictions should not bar people from employment or getting certain occupational licenses — a “tool of racial inequity,” she says and that minimum mandatory sentencing for nonviolent offenses should be done away with. Palomino would not defund the police, but would fund community policing programs.

In this race, Barreiro represents experience, somewhat, but he’s been away from politics for two years after rejection by voters. Palomino would have a steep learning curve, but she represents new blood, is energetic and willing to help her district. As a member of the majority party, she might get something done.

The Miami Herald recommends ROSA MARIA “ROSY” PALOMINO for Florida House District 112.

HOUSE 114

Two Democratic challengers are vying for the seat vacated by Javier Fernández, who is running for a state Senate seat.

Loyzelle
Loyzelle

The race pits Jean-Pierre Bado, a Coral Gables securities litigation attorney and veteran Army captain who attended West Point against Sue “Susi” Loyzelle, the vice mayor of Cutler Bay and a former grant writer for the YMCA.

This district is geographically, economically and culturally diverse. It stretches across Flagami, West Miami, Coral Terrace, South Miami, Pinecrest and Cutler Bay. Its eastern border is in the middle of Biscayne Bay. The district is home to about 170,000 residents, and it’s 59 percent Hispanic.

The winner of this race will face Republican Demi Busatta Cabrera, a former legislative assistant to state Sen. Anitere Flores. Busatta Cabrera is unopposed in the primary.

Bado, a political newcomer, says his military training makes him a better leader, especially now that the pandemic has hit sections of the district hard.

“There is a health crisis and a hunger crisis in the district, and climate justice is another concern,” he says.

Loyzelle said the challenges in the district include transportation, affordable housing and making sure the district has climate-change and sea-level rise initiatives. If elected, she says she would work to overhaul the state’s unemployment system.

“We need to change the state’s antiquated unemployment system, which is a disgrace,” she said of the website that has failed so many during the pandemic. The amount of unemployment Florida currently pays is also unacceptable, she said. “How can anyone with a family live on the $275-a-week unemployment benefits the state gives you?”

Bado, who is of Costa Rican descent, said the district needs a “Spanish speaker” to better serve the constituency. Loyzelle takes umbrage. “I don’t believe you have to speak the language to help people in need,” she said. She’s right.

With healthier campaign coffers, Bado is a knowledgeable and polished first-time candidate, but we think Loyzelle’s experience as a public servant and long-time YMCA official with Tallahassee experience make her better suited to serve. She has been working to meet the grassroots needs of the district for 32 years and has experience in public service. She has been fighting for services for the disadvantaged, which will be just what this district needs as it tries to recover from the pandemic.

In the general election, The Miami Herald recommends SUE “SUSI” LOYZELLE for Florida House District 114.

HOUSE 116

Republican incumbent Daniel A. Perez is poised to become speaker of the House for the 2024 legislative session — winning the honor by a unanimous vote in his legislative class.

Perez
Perez

But Perez finds himself in an unusual situation. Despite his popularity among his legislative colleagues and the support of the Republican Party, the current speaker, José Oliva, appears to be throwing money at the campaign of Perez’s opponent, Gabriel Garcia, who did not take part in the Miami Herald’s candidate interview process.

“I truly don’t know the reason why Speaker Oliva is doing this,” Perez said. “It’s no secret that the speaker has directed a lot of money to my opponent and against my campaign.”

Perez insists he has no personal feud with Oliva and doesn’t believe photos he took before he was elected three years ago during a trip to Cuba are the reason for the hostility toward him.

But as in his first campaign in 2017 to replace then-Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned to run for Florida Senate, the engagement photos of Perez and his then-fiancee taken in Cuba are back on fliers supporting his opponent and calling Perez a disgrace to the Cuban-exile community. Perez said the trip was arranged so he could meet his now-wife’s family.

Perez, who is the in-house counsel for a large HMO, wants to push the alleged feud aside and convey to voters why he should be sent back to Tallahassee. He cites his work in getting Florida teachers a considerable salary increase, fighting against a ban on sanctuary cities and pushing to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.

For the next legislative session, he promises to focus on addressing the cost of property insurance for Floridians, especially in his district, which includes parts of Doral, Fontainebleau, Olympia Heights and sections of Kendall.

Perez thinks that Gov. DeSantis has done a “good job” in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, but realizes the state’s “unemployment website did experience hiccups in the beginning.”

Perez said his district will benefit if he is reelected because of his legislative experience and his ability to get things done.

“I know the silos, the demographics and the issues,” he said. “This job has been one my greatest honors.”

We think Perez has done a good job as a junior legislator. If he makes it to speaker, which he should, it will be beneficial for South Florida to have a local representative in such a prestigious position.

The Miami Herald recommends DANIEL A. PEREZ in Florida House District 116.

HOUSE 117

Three Democrats are running to replace House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee in District 117, a majority-Black district that includes parts of Naranja, Goulds, Richmond Heights, Homestead, West Perrine, Leisure City and Florida City.

Chambliss
Chambliss

With no Republican in the race, the contest will be decided in Tuesday’s primary.

The candidates include Kevin Chambliss, a former aide to two members of Congress and to Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss; Harold Ford, an educator and teachers’ union and community volunteer with the NAACP’s South Miami-Dade branch; and Jessica Laguerre Hylton, an activist and president of Princess Training, a nonprofit organization she founded that mentors young Black girls and helps them create their own businesses.

They all agree that the district has been long forgotten by the powers that be from Tallahassee to the Miami-Dade Commission. They say South Dade is losing its agricultural value to unfettered development.

The only candidate with some political experience in Chambliss, who has been a congressional and commission aide to Congresswomen Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who have both endorsed him.

Chambliss says he’s well-versed in the quality-of-life issues for the poor and unrepresented in the district. “I did constituent intake for these government leaders and I was the first person the people who came to the office spoke to. I have experience in what is happening in the district from listening to them.” That sounds like a solid pipeline into the needs of the district.

Ford says the biggest concerns in the district now are education and criminal justice reform.

“Parents are concerned about whether or not to send their kids back to school and the quality of distance learning due to COVID-19,” he said. Criminal-justice reform is another burning issue. He thinks the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney should be term-limited. He also favors bail bond reform and wants attention paid to sentencing disparities between Blacks and whites in the state.

Laguerre Hylton, a grassroots activist, is running because, “Change can’t wait anymore,” she says. “The same elected officials who were in power when I was 7 are still there today.”

We were impressed by Laguerre Hylton’s knowledge of the district and her ideas on how to help it. Her most original goal is making sure local governments have full control and benefit from the area’s money-generating Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs. She says the state usually interferes. “The CRAs in South Dade have not been able to operate to full capacity,” she said. We think Laguerre Hylton has a strong future in local politics.

Right now, however, Chambliss has the greater experience in public service and constituency work.

The Miami Herald recommends KEVIN CHAMBLISS in Florida House District 117.

HOUSE 120

This district flows from, as candidate Alexandria Suarez says, “from farm to sea.” It runs from the farmland in Homestead through the Upper and Middle Keys all the way to Key West — with Everglades National Park thrown in.

Mooney
Mooney

It’s a fragile district — whether the topic is the economy, its vulnerability to storms or the environment. It needs a laser-like focus, so it’s a shame that the race has been marred by ugly and, of course, anonymous accusations.

The three candidates in this Republican primary seek to replace the term-limited Rep. Holly Raschein. They are, in addition to Suarez, Jim Mooney and Rhonda Rebman Lopez.

Suarez is an attorney who says that the years that she spent as a teacher and as a pharmaceutical rep make her the best candidate to succeed Raschein. In her Editorial Board interview, she rattled off a list of pressing issues in the district: reducing the cost of living, the need for workforce housing, healthcare, the pressures of traffic and development. “Everything falls under quality of life,” she says.

Rebman Lopez is running a well-financed campaign, with backing from high-powered lobbyists, that has drawn attention for the wrong reasons. She is conversant on the issues, including the need to maintain water quality, parents’ fear over sending children back to school during a pandemic and, “Jobs, jobs, jobs — our people are suffering.”

She has faced questions about whether she lived in District 120. Her husband has a homestead exemption on a home in Miami-Dade County outside District 120. Campaign documents list a Key Largo address for her. In 2018, she ran for the state House seat in Distrct 115, a mostly narrow inland district that runs approximately from Cutler Bay north to Miami Springs. An Alabama native, she appeared on the ballot as “Rhonda Lopez,” dropping “Rebman” from her last name.

During this campaign both Rebman Lopez and Suarez have denied that they were behind ugly campaign mailers.

Mooney is a real-estate agent and has been an Islamorada councilman. It’s that legislative experience, during which he has taken a deep dive into issues pertinent to Monroe County, that gives him the edge.

His priority is ensuring the quality of the water, crucial to maintain both the Keys’ recreational attractions and the environment. He knows that the economy is struggling on the mainland and in Monroe County. And he’s worried about the county’s rate-of-growth ordinance that has helped slow development, but could leave the county having to pay millions to acquire property in takings cases.This district definitely needs someone who can get into the weeds of policy and governance.

The Miami Herald recommends JAMES “JIM” VERNON MOONEY JR. for Florida House Distict 120.

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