Here are the Herald’s recommendations in the Aug. 28 Republican and Democrat primaries for the Florida House:
This Democratic primary race pits first-time candidate Cindy Polo and local college professor Rick Tapia.
Polo and Tapia are seeking to replace state Rep. Manny Diaz in a district that takes in Doral, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens and Miramar.
Polo was among a handful of candidates who told the Editorial Board that the Parkland school shooting propelled her into politics.
“I just felt I had to do something myself to bring about change in the state’s gun laws not just rely on politicians,” Polo told the Board.
Polo was so moved by the tragedy she was among those who jumped Tallahassee-bound buses in the days after the shooting in which 17 people were killed with Parkland student activists to persuade legislators to pass more stringent gun laws. They succeeded, partly, and a passionate Polo even spoke on their behalf in the Capitol.
Tapia, a college professor is just as eager to serve; he vows to be a voice for accountability in government and has won the endorsement of the United Teachers of Dade.
Tapia has been around the local political scene since 2001, when the Miami Herald recommended him, at age 21, as the best candidate for a Miami City Commission seat.
A former employee with the Miami Heat and MDX, we were impressed by Polo’s #imnotapolitician appeal and her vow to address rock-mine blasting in the northern end of the district that is damaging some homes, a topic rarely touched on by politicians.
In this primary season, the Board has recommended many seasoned and veteran candidates. In this case, we’re going with a young stay-at-home mom, which is how Polo describes herself. We were impressed by her enthusiasm and earnestness.
In the Democratic primary for House District 103, the Herald recommends CINDY POLO.
This race pits Javier Estevez and Ross Hancock, who are vying for the seat vacated by Republican State Rep. Carlos Trujillo. He joined the Trump administration as U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.
Hancock, who has run several times for public offices, is in the manufacturing business. Estevez is an assistant store manager on Miami Beach.
There is little difference between the candidates on the issues. They both offer cogent ideas for the district, which extends from western Miami-Dade into Collier County, with a little bit of Broward County thrown in. They support Medicaid expansion, LGBT rights, environmental sustainability, Everglades restoration, living wages and full access to healthcare. They both understand that traffic is a big problem. Among their mandates if elected: Equality in the workplace, in the justice system and in our lives.
Whoever survives the primary will have uphill battle to defeat the Republican in this mostly red district.
We were impressed with the Estevez campaign and reason for seeking public office. He shows promise in his earnestness and dedication.
But Hancock has the depth of experience in local issues that should make him an effective legislator.
In the Democratic primary for House District 105, the Herald recommends ROSS HANCOCK.
First-term Rep. Roy Hardemon is fighting mad, accusing the Democratic Party of turning against him. Party officials deny it. But there is no denying that Hardemon faces a real challenge from Dotie Joseph, an energetic attorney who grew up in the district, is a graduate of Yale and Georgetown Law School and understands the district challenges — she was raised there. She criticized Hardemon for siding with Republicans and voting for the education bill that siphoned funds from public schools in favor of charters. “Fully fund public education,” Joseph told the Editorial Board. “I’m OK with school choice, but I can’t stand double standards.” We like this balanced approach.
Joseph Beauvil, an immigration consultant is also in this race. He is concerned about crime in the district.
Hardemon, too, is steeped in District 108, coming from a long-enduring political family. He says he voted for the education bill to secure the academic and social-services help that the relatively poor district needs.
In addition to understanding the need for jobs and affordable healthcare, Joseph wants to go after absentee slumlords who won’t fix dilapidated buildings, but charge exorbitant rents to low-income tenants with few options. Indeed, the landlords’ neglect is inhumane. Joseph also wants to secure technical support for the small business owners struggling in the district.
When Hardemon ran for this seat in 2016, we were put off by his long string of felony arrests, either dropped or pleaded down. We think Joseph has the demeanor and professional accomplishment more befitting an elected official representing a challenged district.
In the Democratic primary for House District 108, the Herald recommends DOTIE JOSEPH.
Upon meeting the Miami Herald Editorial Board, Cedric McMinn made a quick clarification. “I’m 40 years old,” he said. He looks 21.
But McMinn’s youthful appearance in deceiving; he really has plenty of years of experience in state politics. He is a former executive director of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, a legislative district assistant for term-limited State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, whose seat he is seeking and who has endorsed him.
His challenger is former State Rep. James Bush III in the Florida primary to represent parts of Brownsville, Overtown, Allapattah, Wynwood. There is no Republican in the race, so the winner takes all. Bush did not respond to a request to be interviewed by the Board.
McMinn is currently chief of staff for Miami-Dade School Board member Dorothy Bengross-Mindingall and vows to be a fighter for teachers in Tallahassee.
The earnest McMinn says he offers “new ideas, a new vision new leadership,” a jab at his challenger. Bush has served District 109 in two separate occasions. He was first elected in 1992 and termed out in 2000. He won election again in 2008, and served until 2010. He ran unsuccessfully for the School Board in 2016.
If elected, McMinn says he’ll be “part of the solution,” and will work with other legislators on the other side of the aisle. He wants to tackle issues such as quality of life and good-paying jobs, which loom big in a district where many constituents struggle to get by. He says safety is a concern, too, and and he “wants to get illegal guns off the street.”
We are impressed with McMinn’s experience, enthusiasm and eagerness to serve.
In the Democratic primary for House District 109, the Herald recommends CEDRIC McMINN.
Former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco told the Herald Editorial Board at the outset of his candidate interview this month that, “I don’t expect your endorsement.” It was a safe bet. Last year, Grieco dropped out of the race for Beach mayor, resigned his commission seat and pleaded no-contest to a campaign-finance violation. He had lied about setting up a secret political action committee to raise campaign funds.. The Herald, through handwriting analysis, outed him. PAC donors told investigators that Grieco had asked them for money, often personally accepting their checks.
Case closed, as far as we’re concerned.
But that doesn’t make it much easier for us to recommend another former Beach commission in the race. Deede Weithorn first claimed to be an MIT-trained engineer. She also said that she held a master of science degree in engineering from the vaunted school. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, has no record of her attendance. Turns out, neither does Weithorn.
She apologized during her Editorial Board visit and said that it was a misunderstanding.
Kubs Lalchandani, a political newcomer, is also in the race. The attorney has spent a considerable amount of time explaining his firm’s defense of plastic surgery centers where patients have been left disfigured, or dead, from botched cosmetic procedures.
We have to give Weithorn the edge in this one. Her MIT claims are troubling, unnecessary. She has apologized, unlike Grieco, who told the Board, “I will never admit guilt on this until the day i die.” And though the truth has been elusive in Weithorn’s case, she did not abuse the power of elected office. We don’t think Grieco can make the same claim.
While on the Beach Commission, Weithorn, a certified public accountant, brought her expertise to bear on the city’s pension challenges. She supports a ban on automatic weapons and broader background checks and wants to explore technological solutions to sea-level rise. She also wants to create better transportation options in the district.
In the Democratic primary for House District 113, the Herald recommends DEEDE WEITHORN.
As in District 105, there is little difference in the candidates and issues in this race.
The more seasoned Jeffrey Solomon, a chiropractor and long-time community activist, is running for the second time for the seat vacated by Michael Bileca.
He faces James Linwood Schulman, millennial entering politics for the first time — and for the right reasons: He thinks he has better ideas.
Both agree that traffic, economic injustice, lack of affordable housing and healthcare are overriding issues in the district that runs from Doral and Miami Springs on the north to South Miami Heights and includes half of Pinecrest and most of Palmetto Bay.
But for his broader experience in community work and knowledge of the issues that need to be addressed in this district, in the Democratic primary for House District 115, the Herald recommends JEFFREY SOLOMON.
HOUSE DISTRICT 116
In 2017, Daniel Anthony Perez told the Herald Editorial Board that, “I will be a champion in Tallahassee for local families with special needs relatives,” and he has been. In his first term, through legislation that he sponsored, the WOW Center Miami, located in Kendall, will expand its offerings to developmentally disabled adults. New programs will include culinary training, office services and vocational training. A child-welfare bill that he signed on to will allow family members resources to take in a distantly related foster child. These are solid wins for a first-term legislator who won a special election last year.
Challenger Frank Polo Jr. says that Perez is not doing a good job. Polo, currently in law school, wants to focus on the cost of insurance and the abuses of homeowners associations. He also is concerned that Perez when to Cuba a few years ago and that he hasn’t spoken out about human-right abuses in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. in this Republican primary.
We think Perez has the right focus — on his constituents here at home.
In the Republican primary for House District Seat 116, the Herald recommends DANIEL ANTHONY PEREZ.
HOUSE DISTRICT 115
This race is taking an overtones of who is more Hispanic.
It pits Vance Aloupis, Jose Fernandez, Carlos Gobel and Rhonda Lopez.
Aloupis made news this week with his television ad, called “Dominoes” where he is seen in a guayabera playing the beloved Cuban game. But Aloupis is not Cuban.
The Spanish-language ad opens with a pair of men playing dominoes. “I’m getting tired of all these career politicians,” and the other says “What about Vance Aloupis?” Clever.
Attorney Fernandez, the only Cuban in the race who has lead in the fundraising, has accused Aloupis of pandering in a district that takes up parts of Miami, Pinecrest, South Miami and Palmetto Bay.
Lopez, an Anglo, is also being accused of using her married name to get ahead in a district. “That’s my husband’s name. What do you want me to do?” the engaging Lopez asked the Editorial Board.
All the candidates support conservative initiatives. The winner of this Republican primary will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary, either Jeffrey Solomon or James Linwood Schulman.
In this crowded race, Aloupis, an attorney who works as the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida, stands out for his ability to get things done.
In the Republican primary for House District 115, the Herald recommends VANCE ALOUPIS.
HOUSE DISTRICT 119
Of the four candidates in this southwest district, Bibiana “Bibi” Potestad stands out. A business and civil litigation attorney already has a good sense of what being a lawmaker entails, having seen it from the inside. At 16, she was an intern from then-State Rep. Juan Zapata. She told the Editorial Board that she got to see how Tallahassee worked.
More important, she says, she learned the difference between a politician and a public servant. “It is my vocation to serve,” she says. When Zapata later was elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission, Potestad was an aide in charge of constituency and outreach.
There are three other district-knowledgable candidates in this race: Juan Fernandez-Barquin, an attorney, Enrique Lopez, a Realtor, and Analeen “Annie” Martinez, who works in procurement in the public schools and is the daughter of County Commissioner Joe Martinez.
Potestad wants to tackle traffic congestion to the far west, nurture economic development in a district that she says in 85 percent residential and bring services for seniors and veterans much closer to where they live. We think Potestad’s experience gives her a leg up.
In the Republican primary for House District 119, the Herald recommends BIBIANA “BIBI” POTESTAD.