Redland resident challenges lawmaker for South Dade/Keys district

Redland area community activist Pamela Gray is challenging incumbent state Rep. Holly Raschein for the right to represent Monroe County and parts of South Miami-Dade in the state House of Representatives.

Best known as a community leader of campaigns to protect agricultural, environmental and historical resources, Gray filed on May 21 as a Democrat to run against Raschein, a Republican from Key Largo.

At stake is House District 120, which is split roughly 37 percent Democrats to 34 percent Republicans. The election is more than a year away — Nov. 4, 2014.

While Raschein has logged a career as a former legislative aid to both Democratic and GOP representatives before becoming a lawmaker herself, Gray has served on the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board from 2007 to 2011. She chaired the board from 2009-10. During the go-go construction years of 2000 to 2005, she headed the steering committee to incorporate the Redland Edge community to protect agricultural lands from urban encroachment. She’s also a project manager in her father’s real estate redevelopment business.

Gray’s pragmatism can be seen in her 2010 campaign for the Miami-Dade Commission seat for District 8, from which she withdrew to support a fellow candidate, former Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn. “We shared so many priorities that we were dividing the vote, so neither of us would have won,” she explains.

Both Raschein and Gray appreciate District 120’s checkerboard of interests, but are likely to approach them in very different ways.

Raschein said she worked hard this year to limit the ability of local government to regulate agritourism activities on local farmlands. She also co-sponsored a bill supporting the acquisition of land to buffer military bases against encroachment.

While Gray says it would be premature for her to discuss legislative priorities — she’s embarking on a “listening tour” to hear what’s on peoples’ minds – her views about the balance between local and state government are clear.

“My community work helps me understand what local governments ask of the state, and what Tallahassee can do to help them,” she said. As an example of how not to help, she points to the failed effort of state legislators in 2010 to weaken Miami-Dade County’s strong protections against wage theft.

“The state proposed a law that would have hurt migrant and service workers, of which we have many,” Gray said. “I have a pulse of the people in the community and how laws affect them."