Editorials

Santos, Pizzo in the Democrat primary for the Florida Senate

Here are the Miami Herald recommendations for the Florida Senate in the Aug. 28 primary.

SENATE DISTRICT 36

The candidates in this Democratic primary hope to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, leaving because of term limits. Both Julian Santos and David Perez are plugged into the district’s issues. As a regulator in the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for seven years, Santos says that he has seen how state government operates. We think that’s a plus in this case.

His position has taken him from Miami throughout the Keys where he worked with banks to save homes that were going into foreclosure. He’s alarmed at Florida’s low ranking nationwide in education and healthcare. He recognizes that charter schools are popular with parents, but rightly says the state is creating the need for them by underfunding, and undermining, public schools. Expanding Medicaid, he says, will settle both the moral argument it brings -- more people will be able to access healthcare; and the fiscal argument -- states save money when the uninsured can get preventive care, as opposed to the costly care of emergency rooms.

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Santos

Santos wants the state to be a “bold” leader in confronting sea-level rise and create an office of climate resilience. He also wants to bring jobs to constituents in the lower-income neighborhoods of Brownsville and Liberty City, parts of which are in this northwest-lying district.

Perez, 48, was propelled into the race when lawmakers, going overboard in the wake of the Parkland school shooting in February, voted to arm teachers. “I can’t let that stand for my child -- or any child,” Perez told the Editorial Board. As with his opponent, funding charter schools at the expense of public districts are a big issue for Perez. Another focus would be helping homeowners in Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North who are under siege from rock-mine blasting. It’s severely damaging their homes, Perez says, and the state has usurped county control over the frequency and intensity of the explosions.

Perez is a lieutenant with the Coral Gables Fire Department, concerned about the high cancer rates in his profession. He wants the state to eliminate out-of-pocket health costs ill firefighters pay.

Both candidates are appealing. Both get it right on the issues. We give the edge to Santos, for the financial experience in state government that he brings. The Herald recommends JULIAN SANTOS in the Democratic primary for State Senate, District 36.

SENATE DISTRICT 38

Daphne Campbell doesn’t seem to like the media or anyone who questions her, for that matter.

In recent years, she has not sat down with the Editorial Board for a candidate interview – and has not sought our backing. She apparently does not need it. She has easily won reelection and served eight years in the state Legislature.

Her latest attack on a Miami Herald reporter occurred last week when she called the police on a journalist who dared to ask her questions at a public event.

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Pizzo

She has survived scandals involving financial turmoil involving her family’s businesses. She was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service after clients said her nursing-home management company had created bank accounts in their names and deposited Medicaid payments for questionable services. Campbell has been in debt to the federal government since before she was elected to the Legislature. She’s also failed to pay what she owes the state of Florida, Miami-Dade County and several private lenders and contractors. Records indicate she might have failed to disclose over $300,000 in debt and other financial liabilities, in what’s an apparent violation of the Florida Constitution.

With what seems little effort, she has represented a diverse and heavily Democratic Miami-Dade district that includes the largest Haitian community in the United States. Still, her conservative views put her at odds with many constituents.

This year, district voters should tell this compromised politician that her time is up. Campbell has a fight on her hands with a formidable challenger, Jason Pizzo, according to polling numbers. She’s in a rare primary election open to all voters regardless of party affiliation. There is no Republican challenger, so the primary winner takes all.

Campbell has tried to scare voters by accusing Pizzo of being a wealthy former Miami-Dade prosecutor who won’t be their champion. In 2016, when Pizzo ran against Campbell unsuccessfully, he was heavily invested in Big Tobacco, oil and energy. Pizzo has since sold the investments, he told the Herald.

Pizzo is on the right side of sea-level rise and has solid ideas to bring affordable housing to his district. “Many constituents are one paycheck from disaster,” he said, because of the cost of rentals.

He said he will fight to address teen gun violence in the district, the ravages of which he has seen first-hand as a former prosecutor. As for his wealth, that’s immaterial. Residents should vote for the candidate with integrity. There’s only one in this race. The Herald recommends JASON PIZZO for State Senate, District 38.

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