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East County Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 7 years ago

OUR VIEW: Elections 2010: We recommend ...


This is the year.

These are the elections to sweep out the status quo and start anew. Stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And that means rare is the incumbent this election cycle who should stay in office. The career politicians should find new careers.

This is the mood of the electorate; our mood as well.

And as in every election, our recommendations unabashedly side with the candidates most likely to preserve and advance liberty and individual rights; with the candidates who believe individual liberty is superior to that of the collective group; with the candidates who vow to expand our freedoms; the candidates who vow to shrink government spending and its intervention into our lives.

By those measures, we cannot recommend candidates in the Democratic Party. Just by their affiliation with the party in power in Washington, they have tainted themselves. Indeed, over the past 20 months, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have demonstrated unequivocal objectives: to tax us more, make us ever more subservient to government plunder and to destroy American free enterprise. Why would any freedom-loving American vote for the party or the candidates in that party who stand for that? Too bad for the Democrats who should be taken seriously.

Our Democratic friends will bristle at our approach. But it is one by which we always have abided. It’s philosophical. Herewith, our recommendations for the Aug. 24 primary. If a race is not listed below, we’re recommending none of the candidates.

It’s always a struggle in the Manatee County School District. Take this year’s FCAT scores. In Florida, 88% of elementary schools received an A or B grade, but of the 37 elementary schools assessed in Manatee, only 54% received an A or B.

Money is always a problem, too. Even with an annual budget of $624 million, there’s never enough. The recession hasn’t helped. And now the school board wants voters to approve a new quarter-mill tax. It’s time for change at the top.

District 1 — Incumbent Barbara Harvey is universally regarded as a good person with deep passion for the welfare of Manatee County schoolchildren. Unfortunately, she is part of the status quo, already having served 12 years on the board and now seeking her fourth term. This, on top of her career as a teacher, principal and director of the district’s elementary schools.

Yes, Harvey has volumes of experience, but her opponent, Parrish business owner David Bailey says, correctly, it’s time for someone with business experience on the board. A lifelong resident of the region, Bailey has owned his own business for a dozen years. He has shown a volunteer commitment to his community as deep as Harvey’s — Rotarian of the year three times in his club and a sponsor of the Women’s Resource Center and Foundation for Dreams. Let Bailey bring a fresh, business perspective to the board. We recommend Bailey.

District 3 — Incumbent Jane Pfeilsticker, holder of a master’s degree in microbiology from Penn State University, talks a lot about boosting bio-tech training in Manatee schools through partnerships with the State College of Florida (where she teaches) and Sarasota public schools. Good idea, not the highest priority for the policymaking board.

Opponent ordained minister Albert Yusko has his head and heart in the right place — he wants to lower taxes, upgrade scholastic achievement and teach abstinence.

But neither of these two candidates can bring the get-it-done energy and commitment of Julie Aranibar, East County businesswoman, mother and activist-volunteer extraordinaire. Talk about someone who doesn’t settle for the status quo. We recommend Aranibar.

District 5 — Talk about a school board candidate with relevant experience. That’s Jennifer Radebach. A former special education teacher in Manatee, she founded the Radebach School in Bradenton and, as most small business owners do, performed every job in the school up close and personal. Radebach sold the school after eight years and has since been serving as co-owner and chief financial officer of a general contracting firm.

Listen to Radebach’s ideas about how to run a school district — creating annual targets for students, closer monitoring of teacher performance, pay for performance, tougher evaluation of spending. Sounds like she should be running for superintendent, too. We recommend Radebach.

This is a tough one for Republicans.

As we’ve listened to the candidates throughout this drawn-out and expensive campaign, we’ve narrowed the field to two, the two who have emerged as the most credible and trustworthy — Greg Steube and Jeremiah Guccione.

In person, Steube is the more polished and clearly the Republican establishment’s top candidate. (He has raised $210,000 compared to Guccione’s $128,000.) He is almost too good to be true: handsome, well-spoken; son of the Manatee County’s former sheriff; native of Bradenton; University of Florida ag-major graduate and law school graduate; University of Florida Hall of Fame inductee while an undergraduate; enlisted in the Army, served in the Iraq War and three years as an Army lawyer (Judge Advocate General Corps); and served as an intern in the Legislature and U.S. Congress. Now a lawyer with Najmy Thompson, P.L., Steube has pursued a path that appears as though he is destined for elected office.

For his district, that certainly would be an advantage. Much more so than his opponents, Steube certainly would know his way around the Capitol. He would know how to play the often sleazy game of Tallahassee politics.

And that’s the problem. He already seems to be a seasoned politician. Certainly with his father as sheriff, he is well-connected. One Manatee business owner told us: perhaps too well connected.

No question about it: Steube would serve his district constituents and Floridians well. But when we listen closely to the philosophical differences between Steube and Guccione, Guccione is more strongly committed to a limited, less-interventionist government and capitalistic philosophy than is Steube. We need that more than ever.

Don’t underplay Guccione’s own experiences. With his family as owners and operators of assisted living facilities for disadvantage adults in Bradenton, Guccione knows the demands of owning a business and the real and costly effects of government regulations. And like Steube, Guccione is a product of this region. He graduated from Incarnation Catholic School, Cardinal Mooney High School and earned a master’s in business administration from Florida State University in one year. Guccione earned his B.A. in business from Rhodes College, a Presbyterian-based school near Memphis, where he played basketball four years and earned all-academics honors. He is also the founder of the Heart Gallery of Sarasota, a non-profit that helps foster-care children find adoptive homes.

Side by side with Steube, Guccione does not have the name recognition or the political savvy. But in times such as these, when politicians are at a popular low and voters are thirsting for elected officials with pragmatic business experience and fresh perspectives, we’ll lean toward the underdog. Steube is strong, but we recommend Guccione.

This race is not difficult on the Republican side.

In short, it goes like this: two Tallahassee insiders versus a politically inexperienced, feisty, fresh outsider. That would be Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former Secretary of the Agency for Healthcare Administration Holly Benson versus Pam Bondi, Tampa native and longtime assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County.

Kottkamp and Benson are both former members of the Florida House, eight-year veterans of Tallahassee who appear to be looking for the next step up and on their way to becoming entrenched in the political class. Though both of them are lawyers, neither has had the courtroom experience of Bondi.

Bondi has spent 18 years in the state attorney’s office in Tampa. This has given her a breadth of experience trying a variety of cases, from consumer fraud to capital murder. In that time, she also has gained experience helping manage and craft the budget for one of Florida’s largest state attorney offices. Clear, this gives Bondi an advantage in seeking to become Florida’s chief legal officer.

If elected, Bondi’s responsibilities take her beyond serving only as attorney general. As a member of the Florida Cabinet, she would participate in voting on many other issues, many of which influence how much Florida government intervenes in the state’s economy with regulations. Suffice it to say, she would serve as a strong conservative vote. We recommend Bondi.

Naples businessman Rick Scott has tagged Bill McCullom perfectly: career politician. We’ll add to the label: the epitome of what we need to eliminate.

Forget all of McCullom’s nastiness about Medicare fraud when Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA. Here’s the difference: Scott has held real jobs and created jobs in the private sector; he has built and managed successful companies, one of them with 250,000 employees. He is far more qualified to be the CEO of Florida than McCullom. If logic prevails, this race should be a landslide. We recommend Scott.

There is no need to say much here. Incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan doesn’t have a threatening, serious opponent in the primary. While he sometimes drifts too far to the middle (and left), Buchanan remains committed to requiring a balanced budget and beating back job-killing regulations. We recommend Buchanan.

On the Republican side, we recommend Marco Rubio.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have a tough decision. None of the candidates is a clear standout. Unfortunately, this bodes well for Charlie Crist.

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