Today the Herald makes its recommendations for Florida House Districts 113, 114, 115, 116, 118, 119 and 120. Recommendations for five other districts were published Tuesday. A list of all recommendations for the Nov. 8 general election made so far is also available online.
State Rep. David Richardson, 59, came to prominence in 2012 when he was elected in his first run for office and became the state’s first openly gay member of the Legislature. The Democratic lawmaker is running for a third term and facing challenger Jonathan Parker, 54, a DUI defense attorney who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Miami Beach Commission.
Mr. Richardson made his mark early in his Tallahassee career, authoring legislation to appoint an inspector general to oversee the affairs of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. He also authored an amendment to eliminate the ban on allowing gay couples to adopt children and has made prison reform a priority. Rep. Richardson has made 45 visits to state prison sites to get a first-hand look at conditions and was so appalled by what he found at the prison in Lancaster that he called for it to be closed — which it subsequently was.
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Rep. Richardson represents some of the wealthiest parts of Miami-Dade County (in Miami Beach) and some of the poorest in East Little Havana. He looks after the interests of both parts of his district and deserves reelection.
For State Representative, District 113, the Herald recommends DAVID RICHARDSON.
Two years ago, we recommended Republican incumbent Erik Fresen over Democrat Daisy J. Baez, but it was a close call. With Rep. Fresen term-limited out, Ms. Baez, 57, a successful healthcare consultant, is seeking the seat again. Though a newcomer to politics, she has impressive knowledge of state issues and is passionate about being a public servant. It comes naturally to her; she is a decorated military veteran, having served in the U.S. Army’s 1st Calvary Division. She is being challenged by Republican John Couriel.
Ms. Baez does not support public tax dollars going to for-profit, private schools; she supports Medicaid expansion and the Second Amendment, but says a process of “registration and limitation is reasonable and necessary for public safety.”
Her opponent, Mr. Couriel, is making his second run for the Legislature, too, and has an eye-catching resume. A Harvard grad, Mr. Couriel, went on to become a law clerk for a federal judge and an assistant U.S. attorney. As a lawmaker, he would target violent crime and the huge challenge of Medicare fraud, among other priorities. He is a proponent of community policing and says that Medicaid expansion does not “address economic realities.”
We give the edge to Ms. Baez in this race, for breadth of experience in the military and the business world, both of which should serve her, and Floridians, well in the Legislature. For State Representative, District 114, the Herald recommends DAISY J. BAEZ.
Republican Rep. Michael Bileca hews to his party’s conservative agenda: Expand Medicaid? No. Open carry? Yes. And he says LGBT rights are an issue of dignity and respect for everyone. However, he has not been single-minded or rigid during the three terms he has served. So, though he supports school vouchers and school choice, he also said in the Herald’s questionnaire that public schools receive too little funding. He decries the state Department of Corrections’ “culture of lawlessness” and wants to see more vigorous prosecutions of DOC employees who have abused — and even killed — inmates. He says that Florida can be a national leader of renewable energy, and that offshore drilling will hurt our coastlines and, by extension, the lucrative tourism industry.
He worked to expand Opportunity Scholarships for students in failing schools and personal-learning accounts for families with severely disabled children. In addition, he was a member of the Financial Recovery Board that pulled Jackson Memorial Hospital back from the brink of insolvency, a position he left once the facility was on more-solid financial footing.
Democrat Jeffrey Doc Solomon, 56, is challenging the incumbent, his third run for the seat. A chiropractor, Dr. Solomon’s focus is on education. Like Rep. Bileca, he sees the benefit of school vouchers for children from low-income neighborhoods and rural areas. But Dr. Solomon says that they are a drain on public schools. In his questionnaire, he, too, said the public schools get too little funding. He’s all for banning assault weapons and open carry; and he decries the raiding of Amendment 1 funds, meant to preserve environmentally fragile land.
Despite our differences, we think that Rep. Bileca has earned another term, given his depth of experience and accomplishment. For State Representative, District 115, the Herald recommends MICHAEL BILECA.
Republican incumbent Jose Felix Diaz was first elected in 2010, and seeks reelection for a fourth term. Democratic challenger Heath Rassner did not respond to efforts to contact him by the Editorial Board.
Rep. Diaz, 36, is one of the more moderate members of the Miami-Dade Republican delegation. This year, he sponsored a bill that was passed unanimously to expand KidCare, allowing thousands of immigrant children to receive health coverage. He also sponsored what became Amendment 4, which provides tax exemptions for solar power and renewable energy sources. It was approved by voters in the Aug. 30 primary election.
Rep. Diaz says that if reelected his priority will be to overhaul the rules governing condo associations to make them more uniform statewide and to provide greater fairness for residents and prevent abusive practices. Given the large number of condominiums in part of his district, like Fountainebleau, it is a matter of urgency for his constituents.
For State Representative, District 116, the Miami Herald recommends JOSE FELIX DIAZ.
Democrat Robert Asencio, a retired Miami-Dade Schools police captain running his first campaign, faces off against David Rivera, a controversial former Republican member of Congress dumped by voters in 2012 and who is making another bid to restart his tarnished political career.
As befits someone with 26 years of keeping schools safe, Mr. Asencio says his top issues are public education and public safety. He wants more money for public schools and improved educational accountability standards.
He sensibly opposes campus carry legislation because he believes having untrained personnel carrying weapons in public is a liability. He supports criminal-justice reform and says state government has lost its way, answering the call of special interests rather than constituents.
This one’s a no-brainer. Mr. Rivera’s public career has been marred by one scandal after another. The scurrilous attack ads he’s running against Mr. Asencio in this race are false, a testament to his willingness to say or do virtually anything to win. Voters are better off without him. For State Representative, District 118, the Herald recommends ROBERT ASENCIO.
State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez is seeking her fourth term in the Legislature, where she has been a thoughtful voice for conservative issues and fiscal responsibility.
She is being challenged by Jeniffer Pinell, a first-time political candidate.
Rep. Nuñez, 44, opposes Medicaid expansion, supports school choice and says that much of the anti-gun discourse following the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting was politically motivated. Still, she says, she’s willing to help close loopholes to make citizens safer. She is best known for pushing to control tolls and reining in the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, keeping her constituents’ grievances in mind.
This year, Rep. Nuñez fought to restructure the MDX and impose tougher ethics requirements. She and state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, sponsored a bill to shrink the MDX board from 13 members to nine and prohibit anyone from serving on the board if that person has represented a client or done business with the authority in the past four years. The governor signed the bill.
The priorities of Ms. Pinell, whose business helps home-healthcare workers seeking to unionize, are more in line with those of the Editorial Board. She supports Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage. She says that she wants to make a difference. Laudable, but she didn’t show the depth of knowledge of either the issues or the legislative process that would make her a stronger challenge to the experienced incumbent.
For State Representative, District 119, the Herald recommends JEANETTE NUÑEZ.
Rep. Holly Raschein has been a champion for her Monroe County constituents and for those in need statewide. The Republican lawmaker has bucked her party to work across the aisle to support Medicaid expansion and pushed through the Florida Keys Stewardship Act to invest as much as $25 million a year to the Florida Keys for water-quality and land-conservation projects.
The Act creates a 10-year funding strategy that appropriates up to $25 million annually for the acquisition of conservation land and water-quality projects, such as storm and wastewater projects and canal-restoration projects.
This is game-changing stewardship on her part. She clearly recognizes just how valuable the Keys are environmentally and economically.
And, in a move that, unfortunately, could have come at great cost, Ms. Raschein voted to accept federal funds that would have provided healthcare to about 13,000 people in her district alone. She should be commended for putting principle — and people — before party.
She opposes drilling off Florida’s coasts, preferring investment in renewable energy; and supported the state buying Big Sugar’s land south of Lake Okeechobee to enhance water quality and the Everglades.
Her Democratic opponent, Dan Horton, is a political newcomer. A graduate of Florida International University’s law school, Mr. Horton rightly says that the district lacks affordable housing — another challenge the incumbent is working to alleviate — and that protecting the environment is among the most pressing issues there. At 31, he is a smart and earnest candidate who should better familiarize himself with the issues. Right now, he is no match for Rep. Raschein, who’s ability to get things done has been a boon for the district. For State Representative, District 120, the Herald recommends HOLLY RASCHEIN.