Based on our recommendations in favor of all of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and House, governor and Florida Cabinet in last week’s edition, one reader astutely pointed out we shouldn’t have wasted so much space explaining our recommendations. It would have been simpler, he said, just to say: Vote the GOP ticket.
In a sense, we said that in our prelude, just not as explicitly. We noted that, given what has occurred over the past two years, “it’s impossible to make a persuasive case to elect any Democrat in this election cycle.”
There’s one exception: Sarasota Charter Review Board, District 5.
In all of the other local legislative, and county commission, however, our reader is correct. We recommend — surprise — the Republican ticket. In some races, it’s worth noting why.
State House District 67
Vying to replace the term-limited Rep. Ron Reagan in East Manatee County, Republican Greg Steube and Democrat Z.J. Hafeez are impressive young men. Here’s the difference: Hafeez believes in a lot of government activism and intervention, Steube believes in less.
Steube is what we would call a Republican moderate (too moderate for our tastes). He talks about reducing government regulation and creating an environment that encourages small-business growth.
But he also believes in using government intervention to manage growth and development and give tax incentives (i.e. subsidize special groups) for small businesses and alternative energy. To his credit, he says he opposes new taxes.
Hafeez scares us. Although he has stated “citizens must be allowed to keep more of their own money” and that “small businesses should have their tax burden lowered so they can employ more people and become local drivers of an economic recovery,” he’s overflowing with interventionist ideas: i.e., tax credits “to ensure that property taxes do not exceed a person’s ability to pay”; more spending to expand the state’s role in providing health insurance for the uninsured and children. He wants Citizens Property Insurance to grow even larger. He wants to hire more teachers, give them higher pay. And he wants to increase “sin” taxes, raising the tax on cigarettes by $1.
In Hafeez’s ideal world, there would be no rest for an expanding government.
We recommend Steube.
State House District 68
Jim Boyd, Republican, and Dave “Watchdog” Miner, no party affiliation, are running to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Bill Galvano, who has reached his eight-year term limit.
Boyd is solid all the way around — a former Palmetto councilman and mayor; nephew of the late well-known state senator from Bradenton, Wilbur Boyd; and here’s what we like most — he’s co-owner and CEO of a longtime Bradenton insurance agency. He knows what it takes to make a payroll and, a bonus, he understands property insurance. In particular, he knows that having taxpayers own the state’s largest homeowner insurance company is really bad public policy.
We recommend Jim Boyd.
State House District 69
For voters who give more weight to a candidate’s philosophical beliefs than to party loyalty, this race is probably the most difficult one to make a choice. It features incumbent Democrat Keith Fitzgerald versus Republican Ray Pilon.
Pilon is your standard-issue Republican — cut waste, fraud, abuse and regulation and no tax increases. Who can argue with that? And as such, if he is elected to what is expected to be a Republican-led Legislature, he’ll at least be admitted to sit at the Republicans’ decision-making table.
Incumbent Fitzgerald, a pragmatic and thoughtful political science professor, has the disadvantage of being a Democrat in a Republican-dominated Legislature.
But here’s the thing we like about Fitzgerald: He’s as disenchanted as we are with all of the economic “rent-seeking” that goes on in Tallahassee. Too bad he can’t do much about it.
In this race, voters can’t go wrong. But as we’ve noted before, when a candidate declares a party allegiance, in the end, he is almost certain to stand on that party’s side (and platform). That’s the only problem with Fitzgerald. No choice is wrong; we’ll recommend Pilon.
State House District 70
Our wish for incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Holder is that he break out from the crowd and take the lead on some meaningful policy changes that indeed would improve Florida’s economic climate.
Examples: Lead the charge to privatize Citizens Property Insurance; institute caps on the growth in government spending; eliminate the state’s portion of the school property tax and shift it to the sales tax; eliminate the corporate income tax; get the state out of workers’ compensation insurance; shift Florida’s $18 billion Medicaid programs to managed care. Make a difference.
As for his opponent, first-time candidate Democrat Nancy Feehan, she is earnest and thoughtful about issues. But the fact that she supports Amendments 5 and 6, the Democrat Party’s scheme to retake the Legislature, knocks her off our list.
Tepidly, we recommend Holder.
Manatee County Commission
First-time candidate, young Democrat Sundae L. Knight, a civil engineer and Air Force veteran, brings fresh enthusiasm to Manatee’s political scene. But she’s way too green — “My platform is based on promoting green industry jobs … ”
Incumbent Carol Whitmore, on the other hand, epitomizes what a county commissioner should be: a smart, tireless advocate for taxpayers. We love her pledge: “to make government a lean mean machine … I have no problem doing what we have to do to run government like a business and not another governmental mess.” Refreshingly, Whitmore’s actions back her words.
We recommend Whitmore.
Manatee County School Board
District 3 (nonpartisan)
Incumbent Jane Pfeilsticker has a good grasp of issues facing the Manatee School District. But we’ve never been partial to educators sitting on school boards. Pfeilsticker is a molecular biologist at State College of Florida.
Her opponent, Julie Aranibar, would bring to the board characteristics this board could use — indefatigable energy, insatiable desire to make whatever she touches better, community involvement and, what we like best, paycheck-writing business experience. As East Manatee residents know, give Aranibar an assignment, she will get the job done.
We recommend Aranibar.
Manatee School Tax
Voters are being asked whether to give the school board the authority by annual super majority vote to levy a 0.25-mill tax for the next two school years for critical operating needs.
Taxes never go away. We recommend a “no” vote.
Sarasota County Commission
Cathy Antunes, an independent, had the pulse of Sarasotans when she became the voice of those opposed to the slippery spring-training stadium deals and raised the banner for more transparency in the County Commission. Good cause, good intentions.
But the execution left many questioning judgments she made with the lawsuits and people surrounding her. Her stock fell, leaving voters with an incumbent who symbolizes the word politician, Joe Barbetta.
To his credit, Barbetta is mostly fiscally conservative and thoughtful about what is right for Sarasota County. But we can’t help but notice a resemblance to Gov. Charlie Crist — a populist able to please whomever needed to be pleased.
We recommend Barbetta.
Give first-time candidate Mark Hawkins credit — at least he’s out there, expending time, effort and his own money to try to change the political status quo. We love his emphasis on small business and the economy. At least he’s right on that.
But Hawkins is challenging an entrenched incumbent, Nora Patterson. She is entrenched because voters have approved the job she has done. Though not one to tout herself, Patterson brings a critical, thoughtful analysis to county issues. She’s smart and knows intimately how county government works. Consider her a steady, experienced, reassuring hand on the county rudder.
We recommend Patterson.
Sarasota County Charter Review Board
District 2 — Steven R. Fields
District 5 — Kevin T. Connelly
Sarasota Hospital Board
Northern Seat 2 — Robert K. Strasser
Of the 11 supreme court justices up for retention or rejection, we know of only two who have active opposition. Tea Party groups have organized not to retain Florida Supreme Court Justices Jorge Labarga and James E.C. Perry.
Labarga and Perry were among the five justices who voted to remove from the ballot the proposed Amendment 9. That amendment would have prevented Floridians from being compelled to participate in any health-care system and allowed residents to opt out of being required to buy health insurance — a clear (and needed) assault on Obamacare.
The only two justices who dissented in the 5-2 vote and favored keeping the amendment on the ballot were the other two justices up for retention — Charles Canady and Ricky Polston.
Recommendations: Yes — Canady, Polston. No — Labarga, Perry.
COURT OF APPEAL
Seven court of appeal judges are on this year’s ballot.
Recommendation: Yes to retain all seven.
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March 10: The great debate
The Observer will hold a debate for Longboat Key Town Commission candidates at 7 p.m. March 10, at Bayfront Park Recreation Center, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Greg Hoffman SCOREs award
Longboat Key resident Greg Hoffman received Manasota SCORE’s Platinum Leadership Award at the organization’s 50th anniversary awards luncheon Feb. 24.
Spring forward for Daylight Saving
Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, so turn your clocks forward by an hour before bedtime Saturday night.