Disclaimer: These election selections are the personal choices of the 8 member 912 Leaders Panel, not an endorsement by this or any other organization. All the picks were unanimous unless otherwise noted. Many members of groups with whom we work have asked for such a guide, as an aid to their own research. As such, we are asking you to look at the picks, read the rationale, then choose for yourself. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to add your comments to the end of this post..
For an in-depth look at all the candidates and the districts, use our Online Voters Guide
Note: In some of our rationale, legislator ratings from the American Conservative Union (ACU) are used. The ACU is the organizer of CPAC, and compiles ratings based on voting records.
|US House – only one will be on your ballot:|
|Congressional District 18||
After narrowly defeating former Congressman Allen West by 0.6% in 2012 in this slightly Republican district, Democrat Patrick Murphy has become known for his positions on issues on which both sides already agree, such as a need to correct the problems of the Indian River Lagoon and opposition to All Aboard Florida. Not likely to have much impact on partisan issues in the heavily Republican congress anyway, he still only gets a 20/100 rating from the ACU, indicating he mostly votes with Leader Pelosi and the President. Carl Domino by contrast, in his eight years in the Florida House, moved legislation such as homestead portability with bipartisan support but still received a good conservative ranking. Both men have business backgrounds and Carl adds to that a career as a naval officer and just recently graduated from law school. Either would represent the district well on local issues, but this election is really about opposing the Progressive agenda of Barack Obama and the national Democrats, and Murphy cannot be expected to do that.
|Congressional District 20||
Alcee Hastings is running for his 12th term against newcomer Jay Bonner. With a 4.78/100 lifetime ranking by the ACU, Congressman Hastings has enthusiastically supported the Obama agenda, including Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, limits on gun rights, higher taxes on the rich, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. Brian Bonner on the other hand, a white, limited government Republican running in a district that is only 13% Republican and 33% white, will acknowledge that he has little chance. Nevertheless, even though his re-election is a sure thing, we cannot pick Congressman Hastings.
|Congressional District 22||
After beating Republican Adam Hasner by almost 30,000 votes in 2012, Congresswoman Lois Frankel’s first term earned a 16/100 score from the ACU. Strongly in favor of Obamacare, the Democrats version of immigration reform, limitations on gun rights, passing the DISCLOSE Act and the rest of the Obama agenda, she has been a reliable supporter of the President. Paul Spain, has made specific conservative proposals on tax reform, alternatives to Obamacare, and would like to freeze overall government spending at current levels, while restoring the cuts to the military. With an 11 point advantage in Democrat registrations in this district, the demographics favor the incumbent, but as the most important factor in this year’s election is the Obama agenda, Paul Spain is our pick.
|Governor and Cabinet:|
|Governor and Lt. Governor||
This year’s contest pits two Governors who each have served a single term. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, served from 2006-2010 until leaving office to run unsuccessfully for the Senate, becoming an independent when it was clear he could not defeat Marco Rubio in the primary. Changing parties once again to run for Governor, he became a Democrat and won the nomination over Nan Rich. It was not just his party registration that changed though – he now is a full-fledged Obama Progressive Democrat, promoting “infrastructure” spending, high speed rail, Medicaid expansion, green energy projects, and minimum wage increases, while rolling out the national Democrat’s “War on Women” theme.
Rick Scott by contrast, has applied conservative principles in his time in Tallahassee, attracting Fortune 500 companies, eliminating regulations, cutting taxes and fees, and giving the state one of the better track records in the economic recovery, competing with the likes of Texas. He has held the line on state university tuition increases, adequately funded the public schools, invested in Everglades restoration, and delivered a state surplus without raising taxes.
Charlie Crist is a stand-in for the Obama agenda, as are many Democrats on the ballot this year. Even ignoring that fact, Crist’s lack of any guiding principles other than doing whatever it takes to win office, and his “conversion” to the left-leaning ideas that have already bankrupted many blue states, should be enough to reject his candidacy.
Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian Party candidate, has many interesting ideas, including elimination of all property taxes and a 30% cut in the state budget, and many conservative grass-roots activists are considering him. Some are not happy with Rick Scott’s approach to Common Core, others have other beefs. The demographics are such that Wyllie has no chance to win though, and likely will draw more votes from Scott than Crist. I hope these folks will consider how a Crist victory would affect their agenda.
The Scott / Lopez-Cantera ticket deserves another four years.
|Chief Financial Officer||
As CFO for the last four years, Jeff Atwater has taken an active role in furthering the cause of openness and transparency in the state government through a comprehensive website that provides detailed budget information, as well as detail on all the state vendors and contracts. He has been a dogged pursuer of insurance fraud, bringing prosecutions against many who have defrauded insurance companies by staging accidents and generating false claims.
Representing Palm Beach County when he was in the Legislature, including a stint as Senate President, Jeff has been an effective member of Rick Scott’s cabinet since elected to state-wide office in 2010. He often makes the rounds of the grassroots groups in south Florida, and has been our guest in 912 and tea party meetings throughout his tenure, including his annual “Atlas Shrugged” get togethers to celebrate the American experience.
Not very much is known about Jeff’s opponent, William Rankin, whose previous public service was in Ohio as a bureaucrat in that state’s Treasury department, following time in the Army as a criminal investigator. He has never been elected to public office.
Jeff Atwater deserves another 4 years as CFO.
Agriculture, along with tourism and construction, is a foundation of the Florida Economy, and contributes significantly to tax revenue and employment. Keeping the Ag sector healthy, requires an Agriculture Commissioner who can stave off threats – many of which in the current climate come from Washington DC. After 10 years in the Congress, Adam Putnam used his experience to the benefit of Florida, opposing EPA regulations like nutrient content that burden Florida’s water resources and ultimately getting agreement that Florida should manage the health of its own water. His background as a Polk County cattle rancher is well suited to this position.
His opponent, retired Army Lt. Colonel Thadeus Hamilton, spent 36 years as a federal bureaucrat at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services. He sees his mission as promoting a “sustainable” state, and has led conservation efforts such as re-vegetation of sand dunes in Broward county, and protecting sea turtles. His interests appear to lean more to environmental protection than promoting agricultural business.
We think Adam Putnam strikes a proper balance between economic development and the envrironment and deserves another 4 years.
Pam Bondi took office in 2011, while the Florida suit against Obamacare, brought by her predecessor Bill McCollum and joined by 25 other states, was making its way to the Supreme Court and saw it through to its conclusion in 2012. In this landmark ruling, although Obamacare was affirmed as a tax, the court ruled that states cannot be coerced into expanding their Medicaid programs – something of which Florida has taken advantage. A crusader against pill mills, synthetic street drugs and human trafficking, her tenure has been a busy time, with many successes and she continues to pursue Medicaid fraud and abusive foreclosure processes. She also plans to continue the state’s defense of its restrictions on gay marriage.
Her opponent, George Sheldon, strongly supports Medicaid expansion and Obamacare in general, and would not have been likely to pursue the lawsuit with vigor. He would put more emphasis on investigating businesses in the state, particulary utilities and sugar companies, and drop all opposition to gay marriage which he considers equivalent to racial segregation.
As the federal government continues to expand its reach into areas that have always been the perogative of the states, we need an Attorney General that will defend us from such encroachment, not welcome it with open arms. Pam Bondi is the obvious choice.
|State Senate – at most one will be on your ballot:|
|Senate District 32||
Joe Negron, elected in 2009 on the retirement of Ken Pruitt, has risen to the chairmanship of the appropriations committee, co-chairs the joint commission on the budget, and is a contender for Senate President for the 2016 session. A reliable conservative, with an 88 rating from the ACU in the 2013 session (he supported sports subsidies along with most of the Senate when ACU did not), he has introduced legislation to prohibit surveillance drones, and impose harsher penalties on securities fraud and other Ponzi schemes. A frequent visitor to local tea party meetings, Joe tells it like it is, even when some positions are unpopular (like accomodating Medicaid expansion).
His opponent Bruno Moore, a journalist / traffic reporter from Stuart, was a local leader of the Obama campaign and a fellow in Organizing for America. His issues are raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing minor drug offenses, and protecting same-sex marriage in Florida.
Joe Negron represents the Treasure Coast well and deserves another term.
|Senate District 34||
This election is a rematch of 2012, where the two candidates, both sitting Senators thrown into a cage match by re-districting, saw a 53%/47% win for Sachs in this new D+9 district.
While in the Senate and 8 years in the House, Ellyn Bogdanoff was a reliable conservative, earning an 86% ACU rating in her last year. While we didn’t always agree with her (such as support for SunRail), she introduced taxpayer-friendly legislation such as “Smart Cap”, and was skilled working the halls of Tallahassee.
Maria Sachs is a formidable politician – her visit to a tea party forum earlier this year probably got her some votes for her focus on constituent services and problem solving, and she has occasionally bucked her party on some issues, demonstrated by her ACU 30 rating. Her overall voting record though sits squarely with the minority.
It is a shame that both of these Senators can’t be returned to Tallahassee, but having to choose, the state is better off with the policies of the Republican majority, and Ellyn Bogdanoff is a better match for the policy direction we need.
|State House – at most one will be on your ballot:|
|House District 82||
Mary Lynn Magar
Finishing her first term with a 100 ACU rating, small business owner Mary Lynn Magar, VP and General Manager of Heart Care Imaging, has represented this Treasure Coast district well. Opposed to All Aboard Florida, Common Core, and the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, she does not support spending or tax increases “no matter how noble the cause”. A frequent visitor to the tea party, Mary Lynn Magar embraces the issues of the grassroots.
Her opponent, environmentalist Mary Higgins, has a background in government and non-profits. She supports the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and has accused the Scott administration of “sabatoging Obamacare” by not creating a state exchange or accepting Medicaid money.
Like many races this cycle, although Barack Obama is not on the ballot, his policies are. If you support the President’s agenda, then Mary Higgins is for you. As we do not, Mary Lynn Magar is our pick.
|House District 86||
Stuart Mears, running for office for the first time, is a limited-government conservative who favors lower taxes and spending. A teacher and employee of the School District, he opposes Common Core.
His opponent, Mark Pafford, is a prototypical liberal – the only member of the county delegation to receive a “perfect” zero score from the ACA in 2013. Currently minority leader in the House, he leads the opposition against just about every intiative of the Republican majority. A proponent of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, he supports a “millionaire’s tax”, high density housing instead of “urban sprawl”, and a ban on offshore drilling.
To their credit, both candidates have reached out to the grassroots, participating in tea party events. But as in some other races this year, this one offers a contrast in ideology, with the Obama Agenda clearly on the ballot. Our pick is Stuart Mears.
|House District 89||
Two term representative Bill Hagar, President of Insurance Metrics Corporation, and an entrepreneur, has been a reliable conservative, earning a perfect 100 from the ACU in 2013. He favors lower taxes and spending, school vouchers, protecting gun rights and FRS reform. A particular interest is sober houses regulation.
His opponent, David Silvers, President of Tekno Books, supports accepting the Obamacare money for Medicaid expansion, believes that the district is at risk from global warming, opposes fracking and the increased use of fossil fuels, and opposes school choice options such as charter schools and vouchers. He would support restoring voting rights for felons and online voter registration.
Again, a clear ideological choice. Our pick is Bill Hagar.
|Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservaton group 5||
The Soil and Water Conservation District’s mission is to educate local land users, residents and businesses on ways to protect our natural resources, promote best management practices and conserve, improve and sustain the environment. Supervisors are elected county-wide.
Incumbent Democrat Eva Webb, serving since 2003 and current chairman would like to continue the current board direction and seek federal and state money for conservation efforts.
Challenger, Libertarian Karl Dickey, sees overlap between this agency and the South Florida Water Management District and would seek to cut $350K from the budget. As a former county Libertarian President, Karl has supported TAB actions to restrain growth in the county budget, and is a proponent of property rights and free markets to stimulate the innovations and behavior that protect our environment.
We believe Karl Dickey deserves this chance.
|County Commission – one or none will be on your ballot:|
|County Commission District 4||
Steven Abrams has been a reliable vote for spending restraint in his 5 years on the Commission, and tends to apply a good dose of common sense to his arguments and votes. He was not a supporter of spending tax money on the convention center hotel, questioned the need for an expensive “disparity study”, and tried to arbitrate the criticism of the county’s participation in the Seven/50 plan . Unfortunately, as one of only 2 Republicans on the board, his views do not usually prevail, but at least another point of view is considered.
His opponent, Andrew O’Brien, an ardent supporter of public transportation and local action to mitigate climate change, provides a long wish list of things on which he would like to increase spending, and although he says he would support small businesses (particularly those owned minorities and women), he does not propose lower taxes or reduced regulations.
To have any chance of budget restraint in the future, we need another term for Steve Abrams.
|County Commission District 6||
In his 8 years as a Commissioner, Jess Santamaria was a leader in bringing ethics reform to the county in the form of the IG and Ethics Commission, and helped protect those fragile resources from significant challenges. He was not though, very helpful on the budget, usually supporting more spending than the board as a whole. His daughter Michelle, the current candidate, has adopted many of her father’s positions, including funding the IG from vendor fees.
Melissa McKinley is the most pro-development of any candidate this year, supporting Minto and others plans to increase density in the western communities beyond the comprehensive plan. She also supports increased spending on climate change issues and infrastructure projects.
Of the three, Andrew Schaller is the most concerned with “preservation of lifestyle” in the western communities, opposing densities that would alter their character. He would also be the more conservative of the three on the budget and controlling spending. For these reasons, he is our pick.
|School Board – District 4 only|
|School Board District 4||
The two candidates in this run-off election have similar positions. Both want to increase the use of technology, increase family input and local control of the schools, and make the budget more accountable. Both say they support charter schools, although Tom Sutterfield has been involved in improving one, while Eric Winfield talks more about making the conventional schools more competitive through marketing them. They both have school related experience, Winfield as a school district wellness coordinator, Sutterfield as a board member of Learning Excellence Foundation which operates a charter school. Erica Winfield is endorsed by a long list of unions and Democrat politicians, while Tom Sutterfield has his own list from the business community and Republican politicians.
Given Tom Sutterfield’s experience overseeing a school and his seemingly stronger support for choice, he is our pick.
|Port of Palm Beach – if live in the Port District|
|Port of Palm Beach Group 5||
Being Port Commissioner is a part time job related to the oversight of a county independent taxing district. Policy decisions involve such things as the types of operations desired, or whether or not to dredge the inlet to expand the types of ships that can use the port. Although it is a partisan election, experience and insight are more important than ideology.
Kesnel Theus is a newcomer to county politics and has worked hard on the campaign. His youth and desire for service make him one to watch, yet he has not shown much familiarity with the operation of the port or the challenges it faces.
Our pick, Peyton McArthur on the other hand comes to the race after many years in local politics and having actually worked at the port as Director of Human Resources, doing labor relations and governmental affairs. We’ve gotten to know Peyton in his current capacity as senior assistant to county commissioner Paulette Burdick, and know him as one who listens to both sides and makes objective evaluations. A serious Democrat who was county chairman during the 2000 recount, we do not always agree with Peyton on national policies, but he has been helpful to us on county issues and has a well thought-out vision for the future of the port.
Note: One of our 8 person panel chose Kesnel Theus for this seat.
|Judicial Retention – vote yes to retain in office:|
Three of the four judges were appointed by Republican Governors, Judges Forst and Klingensmith by Rick Scott in 2013, and Judge Martha Warner by Bob Martinez in 1989. Judge Stevenson was appointed by Lawton Chiles in 1994 and has impressive judicial experience. We have found no reason why all four judges should not be retained.
|4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge||
Alan O. Forst
|4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge||
Mark W. Klingensmith
|4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge||
W. Matthew Stevenson
|4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge||
Martha C. Warner
|Special Districts – on ballot only within the districts:|
|Indian Trail Improvement District Seats 1, 3 and 5||The responsibilities of Indian Trail Improvement District include reclaiming the lands within its boundaries for water control and water supply purposes and protecting the land from the effects of water by means of the construction and maintenance of canals and other drainage works and improvements. Three incumbents are being challenged on issues ranging from IG oversight to budget priorities, but the pros and cons of the candidates are best evaluated by residents of the district and we have no pick for these races. For excellent coverage of the races, see the Acreage / Indian Trail section of the Town Crier.
|1 – Water and Land Conservation||NO||
Passage would allocate funds away from other uses, outside of the normal budget process, making achieving balanced budgets more difficult. It amounts to a “blank check” in that the amendment mandates spending without a plan for asset selection, possibly leading to ill-advised purchases. The state already owns more than 30% of its land area, and other vehicles already exist with similar purposes – Florida Forever ($3B spent to date) and the Everglades Trust Fund.
|2 – Medical Marijuana||NO||
We are not opposed to the concept of Medical Marijuana, however the use of a Constitutional Amendment filled with loopholes is not the way to achieve the objective. Nor should an amendment be used to ‘motivate the legislature’ as is stated in the Palm Beach Post editorial in support. Doctors are not writing prescriptions but are ‘certifying’ patients as having debilitating conditions and would be constitutionally protected from any civil or criminal liability for issuing such certifications. The state is given 6 months in which to issue regulations and licensing and is open to lawsuits if those dates are not met. Municipalities are considering the need to pass zoning ordinances in order to regulate (as they did with pill mills) whether ‘Marijuana Treatment Centers’ will be permitted. Look for a booming business in ‘personal caregivers’ as well. If medical marijuana’s time has come, let it happen legislatively.
|3 – Judicial Appointments||NO||
This amendment would give undue authority to lame duck governors. Opponents argue that it is specifically designed to allow Rick Scott (assuming he is re-elected) to replace liberal Supreme Court Justices Pariente, Lewis and Quince, all of whom reach retirement age in 2018, and that is possible, although the re-election of the Governor is not guaranteed. It seems like a solution in search of a problem.
Note: One of our 8 person panel chose YES for this question.
|PBC 1 – Children’s Services Council Re-Authorization||NO||
The CSC is a passthrough organization with substantial overhead that provides no direct services to county residents, depending on the network of third parties for that. To the extent county government is responsible for the needs of the county’s children, it would be more flexible and transparent to fund these programs through the county general fund, subject to the yearly public budget review cycle.
|PBC 2 – Continuation of the Special School Tax Levy||NO||
Spending by the school district, and the tax rate that supports it, are set annually in a public process as the budget is prepared. Carving out a “special” .25 mills which may only be spent on certain items, limits the ability of the school board to make fiscal decisions. If the programs funded by this special tax are deemed by the board to be priorities, they are free to provide money from the general fund, and increase the tax rate as needed during the budget process. Special taxes such as this limit their flexibility. Students who attend the public charter schools would not benefit from this referendum as configured.
Note: Two of our 8 person panel chose YES for this question.
|Palm Beach Gardens – Term Limits Question 1||YES||
Because the City Council holds significant power over developers, local businesses, and to some extent local residents, incumbents are rarely opposed except by insurgent candidates. Municipal elections tend to have very low turnout, and it can take a very contentious issue to make these races even mildly competitive, so turnover is low. Growing cities need periodic infusions of new ideas. Term limits will lower the barriers to entry for prospective candidates.
|Palm Beach Gardens – Term Limits Question 2||YES||
This amendment would be relevant only if PBG 1 passes, and would apply the two consecutive term rule to sitting Council members. If both amendments pass at least four of the sitting Council members would be unable to run again, an effect that would not occur until 2017 – three years hence. That is a long enough time for the current office holders to finish what they started and prepare for a transition.
Every two years, during the summer of an election year, the county GOP hosts a “Jamboree” at the South County Civic Center. With a barbecue lunch under the pavillion roof, surrounded by covered booths hosted by candidates and political clubs, it is gathering place for the GOP faithful and those who seek to represent them at all levels of government.
In Wellington, the candidates for School Board district 6 were in attendance (incumbent Marsha Andrews and challengers Joseph Moore and Carla Donaldson), joined by one candidate from district 3 (John Hartman, who also attended the Boca event).
This PBCTP forum was jointly sponsored by South Florida 912.
At a table that spanned the width of the West Boca branch library meeting room, a good mix of candidates showed up to answer questions posed by moderator David DiCrescenzo. The candidates were sent a questionaire in advance of the event, and those and additional questions were posed appropriate to the type of seat sought. (See Candidate’s Position on Issues for the written responsess that were returned).
Congressional candidates participating were David Wagie and Paul Spain who will face each other and Andrea McGee in the August 26 CD22 Republican Primary for the seat currently held by Democrat Lois Frankel. For the county commission we had Democrat Paulette Burdick (who has won her district 2 seat by default but chose to participate for the constituent feedback), and Republican Steven Abrams who will face Democrat Andrew O’Brien in November. School board district 3 incumbent Karen Brill and challengers David Mech and John Hartman filled out the table, and we were joined briefly by Senate 34 incumbent Maria Sachs who in November will face the winner of the Republican primary between Ellyn Bogdanoff and Joseph Bensmihen (neither of who showed up).
Starting the questions with immigration, both Spain and Wagie gave the expected response for tough enforcement of the border. Senator Sachs on the other hand, who pointed out that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, stressed assimilation – that new immigrants should learn the language, learn civics, and forge cultural homogeniety. This was a popular answer for the mostly conservative crowd, and Democrat Sachs may have won some votes with this appearance. Before stepping out to another engagement, she invited all to visit her Boca office. “I am a STATE senator, she said, and when someone calls they get a hearing, regardless of what district they are in or to which party they belong.”
In other areas, the congressional pair had some interesting answers. Paul Spain is in favor of a federal budget freeze, combined with a 10% reduction in federal employees and a 5% pay cut. Favoring the posibility of a flat or fair tax, David Wagie would do away with the IRS, while Paul Spain would only cut it in half.
At the county commission level, Paulette Burdick went against the grain a little, speaking in support of Seven/50 – the sustainable development plan that many in PBCTP have argued against at commission meetings. It is a body of research that is a resource on which to draw – why should we reject available data? Both Burdick and Abrams told of their actions to hold down county spending, with Paulette pointing to her opposition to the out of control Sheriff’s budget and Steven listing the sales tax proposals he has opposed.
The School board candidates were a study in contrasts. Although these races are non-partisan, Republican Hartman makes no secret of his conservatism, and David Mech trumpets his in-your-face libertarianism. Mech, a small business owner whose background in the adult film industry is an interesting beginning on which to launch a school board bid, begged off on some of the questions, admitting he has not had time to research them. Hartman, whose major policy position is based on opposition to common core, saw many issues as black and white. Brill, with the advantage of 4 years in the job, had an understandably nuanced view. On Common Core, she said “that train has left the station” (referring to the standards themselves) as it has been in the implementation stage for several years. But we now have the ability to influence the assessment and the curriculum, she said, and that should be where the focus is. Hartman wants to roll back the program, as if the school board had that power. Mech said he supports Common Core.
On School choice, Brill supports the “full choice” proposal also supported by district 1 member Mike Murgio, which would let any student in the district choose the school they want to attend (subject to available space). Hartman supports choice outside of the district schools (ie. charters), but would look carefully at them for educational values beyond their business basis. Mech opposes school choice, believing it should be “all or nothing” – if we are going to have public schools, then money should not go to alternatives.
The district 4 candidates (who would represent parts of the south county area) did not participate.
Seated at a long table, 10 candidates for 3 north county races (Congress 18, Senate 32, and House 82) answered questions from moderator Michael Williams, Emmy winning anchor of WPTV’s “To the Point“. The Palm Beach County Tea Party event was co-sponsored by South Florida 912.
Williams’ show, which airs on Sunday mornings, is a “must-watch” for county residents who follow local politics and issues. Over the last few months, he did on-air interviews with 5 of the 6 CD-18 candidates (Nick Wukoson will be on July 13), giving him a unique perspective on their positions and styles.
Unlike many grassroots forums where the organizers provide the questions, Williams did his own thing, although sticking to topics he thought would be of interest to the audience. Debt, taxes and Obamacare were covered as you would expect, but he also spent time on All Aboard Florida, money in politics, and helping local businesses, and took audience questions on immigration. The candidates for the Florida Legislature were also asked about Common Core.
Participating in the event were all 6 Republican candidates for Patrick Murphy’s CD18 (Carl Domino, Beverly Hires, Brian Lara, Alan Schlesinger, Calvin Turnquest and Nick Wukoson), Senate 32 incumbent Joe Negron, Republican opponent Brandon Cannon with Democrat challenger Bruno Moore, and House 82 incumbent Mary Lynn Magar who will face Democrat Mary Higgins in November.
The CD18 candidates gave predictable answers on debt and taxes (too high and won’t raise them, incentives to repatriate foreign capital), but they differed some on Obamacare. While most were for a “repeal and replace” strategy, promoting competition across state lines and health savings accounts, a few answers stood out. Carl Domino spoke of some of the “good” things in the Affordable Care Act and did not want to “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Calvin Turnquest pointed out that advertisements for car insurance are all over the TV channels, but not health insurance, since competition is very limited in a government controlled system.
To help local businesses, Alan Schlesinger would allow individual health care deductions on the front of the 1040, so small business would get a similar break to large corporations.
Not surprisingly, all 10 of the candidates are opposed to the widely despised “All Aboard Florida” as presently proposed, and argued among themselves as to who was first to point out that it should be called “All About Freight”. It should be noted that Democrat Patrick Murphy is also now against it. Carl Domino pointed out that it is not accurate to call it a “private” enterprise, since it requires a $1.5B taxpayer loan guarantee, and very little financial or operating data has been disclosed to the public.
The state level candidates were also speaking from the same page on many issues (against Common Core, simplifying processes for small business), although Democrat Bruno Moore did point out that common education standards are needed to prepare today’s students for the global competition.
Immigration garnered a few differences in the candidates. Joe Negron opposes in-state tuition for illegals and promotes e-verify. Nick Wukoson pointed out that the current border crisis does not need new laws – enforcing the current ones would be sufficient. Brian Lara would oppose the expansion of H1B visas, such as those that provide for high-tech workers (and take jobs from home-grown specialists). Pointing out the fallacy in Williams question about illegals “taking jobs from Americans”, Alan Schlesinger pointed out that the real problem is not employment but the overburdening of the social systems. Calvin Turnquest, a legal immigrant himself from the Bahamas, summed it up with “I am the face of immigration”, and anyone who came to this country by following our laws is being disenfranchised by the flood of illegals who are circumventing the system.
Links to the “To the Point” interviews of the candidates can be found in our voters guide on the candidate”s pages. See: PB County Online Voter’s Guide
The November election, for which absentee voting has already started, has been described as the “most important of our lifetimes.” Can that really be the case? Are Obama and Romney that different?
Deficits, new entitlements, foreign policy mistakes, polarization, corruption – these have all happened when both parties have been in power. Jimmy Carter projected weakness and gave us the Iran hostage crisis, high unemployment and inflation. Ronald Reagan ended the cold war, but gave us Iran-Contra and failed to control spending. George H. W. Bush left Saddam Hussein in power and raised our taxes. Bill Clinton raised them higher and gave us continuous scandals while enjoying a comfortable economy fueled by the Internet boom. And George W. Bush brought us back from the brink of 9/11, but added a new entitlement, grew the deficit and bogged us down in two wars through his preemptive strike doctrine. What of our current President?
Barack Obama has said he wanted to “transform America” – and has begun to do so. He has rejected “American Exceptionalism” and apologizes for what he sees as our transgressions – racism, colonialism, exploitation of the poor, and destruction of the environment. In setting about to “right these wrongs”, no other President in our history has attempted to change the very essence of America in such a fundamental way.
Our vote in this election is a referendum on this transformation, and perhaps our only chance to accept or reject what will likely become permanent in a second Obama term.
Why has America “worked” for 236 years?
Our first founding document, the Declaration of Independence, created a basic framework – our “first principles”, if you will.
- We are endowed by our creator with “certain inalienable Rights”, and among them are “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of happiness”
- Governments are instituted to protect these rights.
- Governments serve at the consent of the governed.
These principles of our founding have led to the basic characteristics of American life – that we have the freedom to make our own choices in life, that we have the right to own property, that we are guided by the rule of law not of men, and that we have the opportunity to rise to whatever level of society and wealth that our abilities permit. These characteristics have produced the world’s largest and most dynamic economy, equality of opportunity for all, and an immigration magnet that has drawn people to America from all over the globe.
With individual incentives to succeed, by making our own choices, creating our own wealth and keeping what we create, 300 million Americans exercising our own choices in pursuit of our own dreams create an environment that lifts us all, in ways that can’t be predicted. A few central planners, deciding what should be produced, the kinds of energy we are permitted to develop and use, how we can use our property, how our health care will be delivered – that sort of thinking is foreign to a successful, productive, innovative America.
Barack Obama is not the first to reject these positive forces as regressive and “unfair”. He is not the first to champion the “redistribution of wealth”, where the government takes from some through taxation and disburses to others it deems more worthy. He is not the first to use the force of government to intervene in the markets, picking winners and losers through crony capitalism where it is more important to have a good lobbyist than a good product or service. He is not the first to impose oppressive regulations through the EPA, the NLRB, the Interior and Energy departments, to stifle business growth and concentrate economic power in the hands of the state. He is the first American President in recent times though, to campaign on these principles as “fairness”, and castigate the producers and job creators as the enemy of the middle class, while encouraging dependence through unprecedented growth in the welfare state through food stamps, and the use of Social Security Disability as a kind of permanent unemployment insurance.
The President has been open about his plans and value system and there is very little left to the imagination. He actively promotes tax increases on the wealthy, limits on energy use through restricting permits and canceling the Keystone Pipeline, supports uneconomic enterprises like Solyndra, compromised religious freedom through the Obamacare contraception mandates, limited right-to-work laws by attacking the Boeing plant in South Carolina, and weakened property rights by intervening in the auto bailout to stiff the GM bondholders and Delphi pensioners. These are all detrimental to the economic engine that powers our success.
What has happened in the last four years and why has the economy not improved?
The Economic crisis of 2008: Preceded by the collapse of the housing bubble, itself precipitated by government intervention in markets (Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie/Freddie), global banks and investors were left with mortgage backed assets that were difficult to “mark to market” – precipitating a liquidity crisis. In response, TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was introduced. Supported by both sides as necessary to inject liquidity into markets and prevent them from grinding to a halt, some would say TARP accomplished its goal, although others complain that some banks should have been allowed to fail. In any case, TARP was implemented during the Bush Administration and had bi-partisan support. All the subsequent economic actions taken by Barack Obama were implemented against the wishes of the Republican minority.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: ARRA, (aka “the stimulus”) pumped over $700B into state and local governments to prevent layoffs of union employees, green energy companies like Solyndra, and projects favored by Democrat politicians for their districts. (Note – this is not to single out Democrats – many Republicans including Paul Ryan asked for and received stimulus money for their districts. Since the Democrat majority wrote the bill though, most of the money favored their interest groups.) One estimate puts the amount of the stimulus that went to “shovel ready” infrastructure jobs (roads and bridges, etc) at less than 5%. The ARRA bill had no Republican support in Congress. Since this money was new, off-budget spending, it did not come from tax receipts but was borrowed – much of it from China.
The Auto Bailout: The “managed bankruptcy” of GM and Chrysler turned much of the ownership over to the United Autoworkers Union, stiffed the bondholders who would have been favored in a conventional (ie. court managed) bankruptcy, erased the pensions of Delphi employees and other non-union workers, closed a large number of dealerships owned mostly by Republicans, and left the taxpayer on the hook for tens of billions even to this day. This also had little bipartisan support.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: PPACA, (aka “Obamacare”), was delegated to the Democrats in Congress to write, and they returned a 2400 page monstrosity that many on both sides of the aisle admitted they did not read. In spite of a full year of noisy opposition in town halls, large rallys in Washington DC, polls showing overwhelming opposition to the bills, and 100% Republican opposition in Congress, it was rammed through by using a reconciliation process after the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts took away their filibuster-proof majority. Burdening one sixth of the economy with what will become a command and control health care system, Obamacare has done more than any other action to inhibit businesses from expanding and hiring. It should be noted that other major entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security had broad bipartisan support for passage.
In other actions, Barack Obama:
- Reduced oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore and blocked the Keystone Pipeline
- Promulgated EPA regulations that will make it impossible to build or maintain coal fired power plants
- Tried to prevent Boeing from building a plant in right-to-work South Carolina
- Served up 4 years of deficits exceeding a trillion dollars
- Raised the national debt to over 16 Trillion
- Passed Dodd/Frank – which enshrines “too big to fail” and makes it difficult for small regional banks to survive
- Grew the payroll of the Executive Branch by 25% to $177B in 2012
- Rescinded ‘welfare to work’ requirements, implemented the “Dream Act”, and a cybersecurity policy by executive order against the will of Congress
How does Mitt Romney Describe it?
In answer to a question during the second debate at Hofstra, this was Mitt Romney’s summation of the Obama record:
We can’t afford 4 more years like the last 4 years:
- He said by now unemployment would be at 5.4%, the difference from reality is 9 million Americans out of work
- He said he would reform medicare and social security because they are on the road to bankruptcy – he hasn’t even made a proposal
- He said he would put out an immigration plan to deal with our challenges – he didn’t even file one
- He said he’d cut in half the deficit – instead he doubled it
- He said families would see $2500 reduction in health care premiums – instead they went up by that much and full implementation of Obamacare will cost another $2500
- The middle class is getting crushed under a president who doesn’t know what it takes to get economy working again
- He claims creation of 5 million jobs – that’s after losing 5 million jobs – the number of people still looking for work is still 23 million
- One out of six people are in poverty, 32 million on foodstamps when he took office – now 47 million
- The economy is growing more slowly this year than last year, which was slower than the year before
- The policies he put in place – Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, tax policies, regulatory policies, have not let the economy take off and grow like it could have
- 5 million jobs doesn’t keep up with population growth, and the unemployment rate is down because people have left the workforce
- Obama is great speaker but has been unable to fix anything – cut the deficit, reform medicare and Social Security, or get rising incomes (down $4300 per family)
- This election is about who can get the middle class a bright and prosperous future
So why would Mitt Romney be a better choice?
You have heard the case AGAINST Barack Obama. Here is the case FOR Mitt Romney:
Experience and skills
- Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, successful even with an 83% Democrat legislature.
- Mitt Romney has been a successful Business Creator – both with Bain Capital itself as well as the many companies they helped start or recover.
- Mitt Romney is a Humanitarian, with a track record of good works at the local level through his church and personal philanthropy.
- Mitt Romney is a Problem Solver – he rescued the 2002 Olympics from bankruptcy and disaster.
Knowledge and worldview
- Mitt Romney understands and respects the founding, the unique nature of the country, our keys to success
- Mitt Romney had the proper reaction to the out of control debt and spending (“road to Greece”)
- Mitt Romney has clear and simple spending priorities – “Is it worth borrowing the money from China to do this?”
- In spite of months of negative ads from the Obama campaign casting Mitt Romney as a liar, a scoundrel, an out-of-touch plutocrat, a woman-hater, a racist and many other despicable things, he has continued to run a positive campaign and after the first debate where the country saw him for who his is, is now respected and trusted by a majority in the polls.
Time to Choose
It is time to choose. You may agree with my assessment of the choices or you may not. You may approve of the transformation that is taking place or you may oppose it strenuously. Or you may feel that economic recovery is the task before us, not transformation, and it should have been for the last 4 years. Keep in mind that elections have consequences, and some of them are world-changing. It is now in your hands. Please choose wisely.
Last Sunday, we made the trip up to Tradition to hang out with 13,000 others and see what a Romney rally is like coming off his game changing debate performance. Although the day was hot and the ground was muddy (including the parking lot), people seemed happy to be there and cheered the warm up acts of Joe Negron, Mary Lynn Magar and CFO Jeff Atwater who has become a very effective large crowd speaker and clearly enthusiastic about the Republican ticket. Allen West and Pam Bondi, who introduced Mitt and Ann Romney were also clearly favorites of this crowd.
Governor Romney gave an organized speech, combining elements we have heard from news coverage of other events with quite a few personal anecdotes, reminiscent of the “humanizing” narrative of Tampa, and endiing with an exhortation to “raise the torch”, that was very effective.
Here are some impressions:
- The crowd was large and enthusiastic. It was clear that these folks were pleased with the candidate and firmly behind him. Despite the uncomfortable heat, the sticky mud underfoot and in the parking lot, and the long wait for the event to begin, these folks are pumped.
- The candidate has a new zip in his step.. After his debate performance, possibly the most thorough drubbing of a sitting President that the nation has ever witnessed before an audience north of 70 million, Mitt Romney looks and feels like a winner. No longer defined by Obama’s negative ads, he is free to speak his mind, describe his opponent starkly, and offer hope for the future.
- The event was well organized and fulfilled expectations.The crowd of 13,000, mostly arriving from I95, were funneled smoothly into parking spaces on a grassy field, checked through security with a minimum of fuss (in spite of the TSA agents in their silly blue uniforms), and allowed to spread out and fill the space efficiently. Free water was handed out, the sound system was good, as was the music, and the event appeared to run within 15 minutes of schedule, despite the threat of a summer downpour.
All things considered, it feels like we have turned a corner and the race is now truly competitive.