Primary Days

It’s Election Time In South Florida, See Who to Vote for on Tuesday

Next Tuesday the all mud-slinging will stop (till Election Day anyway) and those looking to lead will duck into their neighborhood polling booth for a camera-friendly photo op and hope that their smiles will win us over. Of course there are serious issues to be addressed – be they war or the economy or the environment. And there are serious differences of opinion of just how those issues should be addressed. Rather than attempt to round up every race in our region, SunPost went straight to the races that will most affect our lives, from the statewide (Senate and Attorney General) to the regional (State Senate District 35), and we asked each candidate vying for the proverbial prize to answer the same three questions.

Here’s what they all had to say for themselves.

Senate
Democrat

Kendrick Meek

Kendrick Meek (as dictated to press director Nathan Click)

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

1. My first priority is turning our economy around and creating jobs. I support cutting taxes for the middle class and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans and corporate special interests. I believe we must continue boosting small business loans, closing loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, and providing targeted tax incentives for high-growth industries such as tourism and agriculture.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

2. I am the only major candidate who has not run as a Republican in the past. My consistent support of issues such as middle class tax cuts and a woman’s right to choose, as well as my steadfast opposition to privatizing Social Security, distinguish me from my opponents.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

3. I am running for public office to give Floridians the type of strong representation they deserve to turn our state’s economy around and create jobs.

As a former skycap and Florida state trooper, I know what it means to work hard like regular Floridians who punch in and punch out every day. I’m the best candidate because I understand the problems middle-class Floridians face.

Jeff Greene

Jeff Greene

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

1. My first priority for Florida is to bring back and create jobs using a diverse set of bold policies designed to stimulate the economy, encourage hiring, facilitate small business growth and development, and strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country great. In order to help small businesses, I will enact new, creative policies that provide incentives to businesses, particularly to start-ups, which will enable them to hire and train workers. I will support tax cuts for small businesses and expand lending through the Small Business Administration’s loan program.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

2. I understand the economy and know how to create jobs. I am the only successful businessman in the Senate race, and a proven job creator. I am an outsider, and won’t take a single penny of special interest money or let the corrupting influence of lobbyists sway my votes in the Senate. I’m the only candidate with a real plan to create long-lasting, private sector jobs from Pensacola to the Keys and all across Florida. I saw the housing crisis coming, and acted to protect my investments and the jobs I created. I took on Wall Street and the biggest banks in the country, and if I were in the Senate at the time, I would’ve been pounding my fist on the table demanding that the crisis not be allowed to spiral out of control while Washington stood by and did nothing.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

3. Like so many Americans, I am fed up with career politicians who have played partisan games and focused on winning their next office rather than working on behalf of the people they are supposed to serve. I am running to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate because we must turn our economy around, create jobs, and deliver real results – politics as usual just won’t do. Frankly, I am running because of my 10 month old son Malcolm. I looked into his eyes and asked myself “Am I willing to put his future in the hands of these failures?”

Maurice Ferre

Maurice Ferre

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

When elected, I will fight for Florida’s fair share of federal funds which we are not getting now. Florida must no longer be one of only four super donor states, paying in more than we get back. When we correct this imbalance of funding, Florida’s economy can begin to improve and prosper. It’s all about JOBS and FAIRNESS.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I bring to the race 25 years of clear public service with never a scandal or a serious accusation of public wrongdoing. In my 12 years as Mayor of Miami and 4 years as a County Commissioner I was able to forge much needed progress and change, with measurable results.  This provided a better quality of life for Floridians during difficult times. I have been one of the most accessible public servants, taking pride in personal attention to my constituents.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

I feel it is imperative that we continue the Democratic agenda begun by President Obama when he took office in January 2009.  That will require an experienced, hardworking, honest Senator who can bring together people with diverse backgrounds and ideologies.  I am the candidate who can best represent all of Florida’s voters in November and at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General
Democrat

Dan Gelber

Dan Gelber

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

Consumer Protection. Recently the AG’s office was given expanded authority to go after these financial crooks that exploit unsuspecting investors. As Attorney General, I will create an Investment Fraud Unit whose purpose is to investigate and prosecute these criminals. The IFU will work with state and federal prosecutors, as well as the regional SEC office whose purpose is to regulate this type of misconduct. This will be one of my highest priorities.

Mortgage Fraud. Bring greater integrity to the mortgage process is important. We need to educate potential homebuyers on the ways to prevent fraud before it happens. Further, too often we are attacking the last crime de jour rather than the next one. The Attorney General needs to make sure law enforcement is ahead of the bad guys – so as newer scams that crop up in reverse mortgages or loan consolidation are swiftly prosecuted.

Depoliticizing the office and making it a marquee office rather than the political office it has become. I believe there is no reason why the AG office of Florida is not one of the greatest in the country.  Florida, unfortunately, has the greatest criminal challenges of nearly any state. So it is up to the AG to provide the leadership and standards to make that office truly exceptional. Floridians deserve that in their lawyers.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

My experience and my willingness to stand up and not back down distinguishes me from others in this race. As a federal prosecutor in South Florida for nearly a decade I tried every type of case imaginable: I prosecuted drug cartels, violent street gangs, economic and environmental criminals, and corrupt public officials. I eventually served as a top deputy in the office and managed hundreds of lawyers and thousands of investigations. I also worked with local and state law enforcement and corrections on various initiatives. As a lawyer I have the highest rating a lawyer can achieve (by the Martindale Hubbell rating service) and am listed in most peer-review publications like Best Lawyers in America.

In the mid-1990s, I was recruited by then U.S. Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia to serve as his Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where I led a group of prosecutors, agents and local law enforcement in counter-terrorism investigations internationally and domestically. We also conducted studies and drafted legislation intended to give first responders the training and equipment they need to be better prepared for a terrorist attack.

In the Florida Legislature I handled many of the criminal justice issues critical to an Attorney General. I authored Florida’s wiretap statute and wrote or had a hand in most of the counter-terrorism legislation passed in the wake of 9-11. I authored a rewrite of the adjudication withhold statute after the Miami Herald series revealing flaws in the statute, and wrote numerous public corruption statutes including the Paul Mendelson Citizen’s Right to Honest Government Act.

While I often found myself at odds with the Republican majority, on criminal justice issues I was able to work together as those should be properly viewed as nonpartisan issues.

My time as a prosecutor uniquely prepared me to serve as Florida’s Attorney General. I tried the type of cases brought by the AG’s office and gained the experience of managing hundreds of lawyers and investigations. My service in the U.S. Senate gave me a background in domestic preparedness that will help me advance the goals of security.

I don’t believe my opponent who spent a very brief time at the Attorney General’s office where he was also running for political office has the depth of legal experience and skill set I present for this job.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

I believe as Attorney General I can bring real change to a state that is in desperate need of a new direction.  Our state has gone terribly off course and we need leadership in Tallahassee that will look out for everyday Floridians. And we need an Attorney General who will be unafraid to take on those who prey on Floridians and aim to defraud hardworking families. I’m running because Floridians deserve to know someone has their back.

Dave Aronberg

Dave Aronberg

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

The number one responsibility of the Florida Attorney General is to make people safe in their own lives. That means getting tough on “pill mills” that feed prescription drug addictions; reforming our sex offender laws so that released offenders are not placed under bridges and overpasses to live; and reprioritizing office resources to properly enforce our state’s new anti-gang laws.  I will also focus on consumer protection. I’ve been focused on this subject for the past decade, from my time as an assistant attorney general in the economic crimes division to years as a State Senator, where I’ve had a consumer protection division within my office that has returned more than $4 million to people who have been ripped off.  I will also make fighting Medicaid fraud a priority, as $3 billion of our state’s $14 billion Medicaid budget is depleted by fraud. To add financial insult to injury, we are leaving federal dollars on the table when Florida fails to do its part to combat Medicaid fraud.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I am different kind of AG candidate, as I am one of the very few candidates for Attorney General in the past 8 years who actually wants to be Attorney General.  This is not a stepping stone or a fall-back position for me. I am saddened by how this once great office has been used for partisan political gamesmanship. I want to de-politicize the Office of Attorney General and return its focus to public safety and consumer protection.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

This is my passion.  I used to be an Assistant Attorney General in the Economic Crimes Division under Bob Butterworth, when I started working for him, it was like a light bulb turned on and I knew this was what I wanted to do in the future. I wanted to be Attorney General. Subsequently, I got a White House Fellowship, and I worked at the White House for one year. I then ran for the state senate and have been serving now for the last eight years. Most of my legislation has been geared toward privacy, consumer protection, and public safety issues, which the Attorney General should make his priority. I knew one day that I would return to run for that office and that day is here.

Republican

Pam Bondi

Pam Bondi

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

First and foremost, I believe in the fundamental right of all citizens to be safe.
After 18 years as a prosecutor, I have the experience necessary to protect Floridians from criminals, and the record to back it up.  For nearly two decades, I have prosecuted and investigated almost every major category of crime from scam artists, gangs, pill mills and most recently I prosecuted a first-degree murder.

My experience as a career prosecutor and as an advocate for countless victims of every crime imaginable has given me a unique perspective that Florida’s Attorney General should be our chief legal officer not our chief politician.  This philosophy will serve as my road map in all actions I take on behalf of Floridians.  Next, I believe in our Constitution and I will defend your freedoms.

The federal government has not only dropped the ball on securing our borders, but is also unwilling to recognize any limits on its power, such as Obamacare.  The federal healthcare law is unconstitutional, and as a veteran prosecutor I am the candidate in the race with the most experience and qualifications necessary to take on that fight and win.

I also believe that your next attorney general should play an important role during this time of economic challenge, when Florida has over a million people out of work and our families and businesses are suffering.   With a struggling economy, scam artists are out in full force.  Mortgage fraud has grown nationally by nearly 400% in the last five years; Florida has received the dubious distinction of being #1 in home healthcare fraud in the nation; and millions and millions of dollars are being misused in our Medicaid system every year.  As Attorney General, I will tirelessly defend Floridians from all types of fraud and bring accountability to those actively working to defraud and defund our state.

As a member of Florida’s Cabinet, I would encourage conservative, time-tested and responsible investments of taxpayer dollars and retirement funds and be an advocate for less taxation and more responsible government spending.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I believe that I am the most qualified candidate in the race because I have spent my entire career, nearly two decades, prosecuting every imaginable crime in this state.  For almost two decades as an Assistant State Attorney in Hillsborough County, I have prosecuted and investigated every major category of crime including crimes against children, the elderly, identity theft, homicides, robberies, burglaries, kidnapping, fraud, theft, gang related cases, DUI manslaughters, drug trafficking cases and domestic violence.   I have never been a politician, or run for political office.

My opponents are both career politicians, one of whom was a personal injury attorney at Morgan and Morgan and the other who is a part-time bond attorney and has never tried a case in a courtroom.

In addition to my experience as a prosecutor, for the last decade I have helped manage and supervise the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, which has 340 staff members, including 130 attorneys, and a multi-million budget.  This experience has fully prepared me for the challenge of managing the Attorney Generals office.

Fighting to put dangerous criminals behind bars and bring justice to victims isn’t a fleeting political interest to me, or a stepping-stone to my next political career.  Instead, it has defined my career and given me the experience, insight and motivation necessary to be Florida’s “top cop.”

Why did you decide to run anyway?

I am running because as a career prosecutor and political outsider, I believe I am the most qualified candidate to serve as Florida’s next Attorney General.

I think that the people of Florida deserve to have an Attorney General who will be a proactive and aggressive defender of the basic fundamental freedom to be safe from crime, and I have spent almost two decades as a Assistant State Prosecutor in one of the largest, most successful law enforcement agencies in the state doing just that. I would be honored to continue that job on a statewide level from the office of the Attorney General.

I am running because I care deeply about our state and the people who live here and I will vigorously defend the rights and freedoms guaranteed to us all under our Constitution.

President Obama’s federal healthcare law is one of the largest, most expensive and most expansive entitlement programs ever and it is my legal opinion that it violates our Constitution, sovereign rights and freedoms, and infringes on the rights of our state’s sovereignty, as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment of our Constitution.

I strongly believe that we must never permit the federal government to expand their power in violation of the Constitution and I will do everything in my power to protect those rights.   Your next attorney general will be the one to lead this important constitutional fight, and I have the legal and courtroom experience necessary to successfully defend the people of this state in a court of law.

I have never run for office, and I am not a politician.  I believe strongly that Florida’s Attorney General should be our chief legal officer not our chief politician.  If I am elected, I will use my unique experience and insights as a career prosecutor to protect our Constitution, Florida’s families, consumers, businesses, environment and economy to the best of my ability.

Jeff Kottkamp

Jeff Kottkamp

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I am the only candidate who has served in statewide elected office—so I understand the challenges and needs of every region of Florida. As Lt. Governor I oversee the Office of Drug Control. This has given me the opportunity to work closely with law enforcement leaders all across Florida.

As a member of the legislature I helped write and pass many of the laws that will be enforced by the next Attorney General including laws to keep repeat violent felons off the streets and behind bars.

As an AV rated lawyer I have taken on the federal government in Court and won. That will be important experience when carrying on Florida’s legal challenge to Obamacare. I am the only candidate licensed to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court—which is where the legal challenge will ultimately be decided.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

I have prepared my whole life to serve the citizens of Florida as Attorney General.

Holly Benson

Holly Benson

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

The first issue is jobs.  I will use the power and resources of the office to be a catalyst for jobs creation.  I will create a Regulatory Strike Force to identify unnecessary regulations that unduly burden Florida’s businesses and work to repeal them.  We must cut through the red tape that is stifling Florida’s entrepreneurs and help empower them to rebuild our economy. I have reduced regulation and reduced fees.  And no one will be more tenacious in insuring that families, businesses and beaches in Northwest Florida are fairly compensated by BP.

In addition, the next Attorney General will inherit the legal challenge of the Obama Health Care Plan, and the economic foundations of our country are at stake.  I chaired Health Care in the House.  I was head of the $18 billion agency that oversaw Medicaid in Florida.  I understand the enormous problems inherent in government run health care. I am prepared to carry on that suit against this unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government that will represent a $1 billion unfunded mandate on our state.  And I will win.  Then we can tackle the challenge of meaningful health care reform.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

The Attorney General heads an agency that will wield enormous impact on the most critical challenges confronting our state and our region: the need for good jobs, the court challenge of the Obama Health Care Plan and settlement with BP.

I have experience as head of two state agencies. I am the only candidate in the race who has led an organization as large as the Attorney General’s office. I served as Secretary of the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, the agency that regulates Florida businesses and professions.  I understand government regulation. I chaired Health Care in the House and headed the Agency for Health Care Administration.  I am the one candidate who understands complex health care policy.  I know how to get things done in the legislative arena.  I have:

•         Chaired the Florida House Health Care Council and oversaw sweeping Medicaid reform to insure access and contain health care costs

•         Led the successful reorganization of Florida’s court system

•         Eliminated excessive business regulations in Florida government and reduced fees on businesses

•         And, I am the only candidate in the race who voted for tort reform

While the Attorney General is Florida’s Top Cop, not all criminals carry guns.  I am a municipal bond lawyer.  I understand financial markets.  I am prepared to fight against the Ponzi schemes that have been perpetrated against our citizens and to combat mortgage fraud.  I have fought rampant Medicaid fraud.  I will continue to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money and a guardian of the state’s assets as a member of the Cabinet.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

When I launched this campaign, I vowed to use the power of the Attorney General’s office to improve our economy by reducing unnecessary regulation and by championing efforts to reform our tort system.  In March, this race fundamentally changed with the passage of Federal health care reform, and now I am running to ensure that Florida pursues the lawsuit challenging health care reform and wins.

My mission as Attorney General is simple: put the bad guys behind bars and the good guys back to work.  I will:

•         ensure that laws have teeth so law enforcement can keep families safe

•         Launch a Strike Force to reduce unnecessary regulations

•         End frivolous lawsuits that cost all of us

State Senate 35
Democrat

Gwen Margolis

Gwen Margolis

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

If/when elected I would file legislation that requires economic education as a requirement for graduation in the public schools. It is important that students acquire knowledge of financial matters to help them make responsible decisions in the future.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I was former President of the Florida Senate and chaired the Miami Dade Commission for six years. These two leadership positions prepare me for any issue that affects all those in Miami Dade and Broward county that I intend to once again represent in Tallahassee.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

My decision to run is because five of the six Miami Dade senators will be leaving because of term limits or running for other positions leaving a void of experience in Miami Dade county. With my vast experience I feel that I can be extremely  helpful to the people of Miami Dade and Broward counties.

Kevin Burns

Kevin Burns

If/When elected, what would be your first order of business?

Florida’s budget will have a projected 8 billion dollar shortfall, state spending priorities are out of control, we have a disaster in the gulf , Jobs are leaving and not coming back to Florida. These are the important issues that I will work on solving immediately.

What do you bring to the table that your opponent(s) doesn’t/don’t?

I have a refreshing people friendly approach to governing and have proven to be an innovative,experience leader. I will bring common sense and hands on solutions to Tallahassee to make our Government  more accountable to the people.
I will bring new energy, enthusiasm, and real life experiences to work for the residents of our district.

Why did you decide to run anyway?

I was encouraged to run for this open State Senate seat vacated by Senator Dan Gelber. I was very successful as the two term Mayor of North Miami. I have been Nationally recognized for many innovative programs and solutions to problems for the people of South Florida. I will bring to Tallahassee a problem solving attitude, I will work to end the partisan non-sense that has kept us from solving the important issues facing Florida.

 

 

About John Hood

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