Post endorsements in the Aug. 18 primary for state House districts 81, 88 and 82.
Candidates in three state House of Representatives districts for Palm Beach County are squaring off in party primaries on Aug. 18.
HOUSE DISTRICT 81: In the largely Democratic district, which stretches from the Glades to Greenacres to Boca Raton, trial lawyer Michael Weinstein is facing former state legislator Kelly Skidmore. The seat has been held by Tina Polsky, who is now running for the Florida Senate.
Weinstein, 47, hopes to use his 22 years’ experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney to be a "bridge between law enforcement and the community." If elected, he told the Editorial Board, he will push for demilitarizing police departments and making errant officers more accountable. These views caused the Police Benevolent Association to disavow an earlier endorsement — but that shouldn’t deter voters. Policies like these should be instituted across the state.
Weinstein sees himself as a moderate who would work with Republicans, who have controlled the chamber for years.
The trouble for Weinstein is that he is pitted against a far better informed, experienced and fiery opponent in Skidmore. The 57-year-old publicist for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida was a state representative from 2006 to 2010 and a legislative aide for 10 years before that. As a legislator when Florida’s budget was plunging in the Great Recession, Skidmore is well-prepared for dealing with cutbacks that will be forced by COVID-driven economic decline. She knows, for example, that the most vulnerable budget areas will be education and health care — and she vows to protect them as much as she can.
Not waiting for the future, she urges action now to reverse Florida’s poor responses to the pandemic. She perceptively criticizes Florida’s lack of contact tracers and its unresponsive and miserly unemployment compensation system. "This system was absolutely built this way on purpose," she told the Editorial Board. "We need to throw it away and get our money back from the Deloitte rip-off," referring to the company that built the $77-million bust of a computer system.
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On the Republican side, Dr. Saulis Banionis, a Wellington physician, is competing against Silmo Moura, a Realtor and pastor. Neither of them responded to the Editorial Board’s invitations to be interviewed.
HOUSE DISTRICT 88: Incumbent Rep. Al Jacquet has poorly served this district, which was mapped out to favor Black representation — missing meetings, dodging constituents and racking up fines for failing to complete campaign reports on time. He hit a notable low by hurling a gay slur at one of his opponents.
Four other candidates are hoping to send him packing in the Democratic primary. Our pick is Omari Hardy, 30, an educator with the West Palm Beach Housing Authority. Hardy is also a Lake Worth Beach city commissioner whose profile soared on social media for a heated flare-up with other officials over utility shutoffs when the pandemic hit. Since then, he’s been at the center of combustible discussions over racism and policing in the city. He led an unsuccessful push to rename Dixie Highway because of its connotations with the Confederacy.
As a state representative, Hardy says his first priority is to be "more present and lucid" than Jacquet. Further, he will push for more public education funding, investing in public broadband to shrink the digital divide, expanding Medicaid, and making housing more affordable through concepts he says are working in other states.
The other candidates — former Riviera Beach councilman Cedric Thomas, radio personality Philippe "Bob" Louis Jeune, lawyer Siena Osta, and Jacquet himself — did not respond to the Editorial Board’s invitation for an interview.
HOUSE DISTRICT 82: In this heavily Republican district for northeastern Palm Beach County and most of Martin County, three candidates are vying in the GOP primary to replace term-limited Rep. MaryLynn Magar.
Carl Domino, 76, is seeking a second act in the Florida House, where he served from 2002-2010. He’s been busy since then, mounting two unsuccessful bids for Congress, and, at age 70, getting a law degree. The successful investment manager now offers free legal help on family-law matters.
His self-financed campaign emphasizes past legislation he championed for "portability," which reduced property taxes by enabling homeowners to move to newer properties without losing tax benefits of the home they left. He told the Editorial Board that, if elected, he’ll "attempt to get better justice for indigent people" and "continue to fight against the opioid problem." Generally a down-the-line Republican, he calls himself "a guy who’s sort of independent." In 2008, for instance, he was one of only two GOP representatives to vote against a bill that would have required teachers to point out flaws in evolutionary theory.
His two primary opponents, Martin County Republican Party vice chairman John Snyder and attorney Rick Kozell, did not respond to the Editorial Board’s invitations.