Editorials

Góngora, Bullard in Democratic primaries for state Senate

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Góngora
Góngora

DISTRICT 38

Democratic State Rep. Daphne Campbell wants to step up to the Senate, but there are five other candidates who want the same seat. They offer stiff competition to the lawmaker who has, in the past, pushed back against more-stringent oversight of assisted-living facilities — and whose family-owned ALFs were criticized by state inspectors for lousy conditions.

The candidates are Anis Blemur, a tax accountant; Jason Pizzo, an attorney and former Miami-Dade prosecutor; and Don Festge, a public school teacher. The last two are experienced former elected officials. Kevin Burns, 57, is a two-term North Miami mayor who helped bring four needed schools to the district and gave the business community a boost. Michael Góngora, 46, is an attorney and two-term Miami Beach commissioner whom we later recommended for city mayor, a race he lost.

Though all the candidates were well-versed on the issues, we give Mr. Góngora the nod for his success in getting Miami Beach to focus on critical environmental concerns and his high level of civic engagement focusing on the bread-and-butter issues to improve the quality of life for all residents. His priorities can serve him well in Tallahassee.

For District 38, the Herald recommends MICHAEL GÓNGORA.

DISTRICT 40

After redistricting, Sen. Dwight Bullard, the incumbent in District 39, found himself in a redrawn District 40 that extends from South Dixie Highway to Krome Avenue and covers much of Kendall.

His opponent is newcomer Andrew Korge, who was originally set to run in another district but jumped over to District 40 because it seemed to offer better prospects for electoral success.

Sen. Bullard accused his opponent of offering him $25,000 to drop out of the race and then filed a complaint with the state attorney’s office. Mr. Korge, the son of prominent Hillary Clinton fundraiser Chris Korge, denies it and claims the senator solicited him, instead.

Then this week the Florida Elections Commission ordered Sen. Bullard to pay $2,000 in fines for filing faulty campaign finance reports going back to 2013 and 2015. This comes on top of a $5,000 fine in May. The Commission said he had multiple opportunities to fix the problem but failed to act.

None of this is likely to charm South Florida voters in this race, in which a third candidate, Missalys Perez, appears to be missing in action.

Ironically, Sen. Bullard, 39, and Mr. Korge, 35, agree on most of the Democratic agenda. They want reasonable controls on firearms, expansion of Medicaid and believe the school-voucher program is a drain on public schools.

Sen. Bullard is the kind of legislator who works incrementally to get things done. He points to a bill that became law to give immigrants in-state college tuition, and to another bill that passed last year to help mom-and-pop groceries have access to micro-loans to build up their businesses.

Mr. Korge works in real estate but considers himself “an entrepreneur at heart.” He says he wants to shake things up in Tallahassee and has big pockets to match his big ambitions. By the end of July, he had reportedly raised nearly $350,000 since the beginning of 2015, while Sen. Bullard has raised just over $85,000. His campaign has sent out numerous mailings attacking Sen. Bullard and former State Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, whose name is still on the ballot, but who withdrew from the race weeks ago.

Sen. Bullard’s disregard for the rules of campaign finance tarnish his candidacy. We have denied support to other candidates for similar ethical lapses, so we urge him to clean this up immediately. However, he has been a stalwart for his constituents for nearly a decade in both the House and Senate, whereas Mr. Korge’s election-shopping makes him seem more of an opportunist just looking for an available political seat.

For State Senate District 40 in the Democratic Primary, we recommend DWIGHT BULLARD.

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