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La Gaceta Endorses Neither Candidate in Congressional District 12

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Sept. 18, 2020

Congress District 12
Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis has served the district, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties since 2007.
He was never very influential when the Republicans were in control of the House. He is less so now that he is in the minority. He always kept a focus on veterans’ issues.
Bilirakis is a nice guy and he is more bipartisan than many of his Republican peers.
His challenger is Democrat Kimberly Walker, who is a U.S. Army and Florida Air National Guard veteran, holds a degree in information technology and is a defense contractor. Her wife is a public school teacher.
Bilirakis is heavily favored in this race and has a lopsided advantage in money and name recognition. Walker has done little to establish herself in this campaign.
La Gaceta has no endorsement in this race.

La Gaceta Endorses on the Amendments

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Sept. 11, 2020

On the November general election ballot, there will be six constitutional amendments.
Amendment 1
This amendment replaces “Every” with “Only a” in the sentence “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
There is no legal difference between “Every citizen” and “Only a citizen.” This amendment will change nothing.
A non-profit, Florida Citizen Voters, spent over $4 million to get the signatures to place this amendment on the ballot. The money came from Citizen Voters, Inc. That group will not say where the money came from and there are similar amendments in other states.
Some believe the amendment is on the ballot to drive out conservative voters who will believe the amendment prevents non-citizen immigrants from voting. These conservatives will also vote for Trump.
This could also be a vehicle for the principals of Citizen Voters to pocket a lot of money in salaries and fees.
Either way, it is a waste of ink and paper.
La Gaceta urges a “No” vote on Amendment 1.
Amendment 2
This adds language to the Constitution that reads, “Effective September 30th, 2021, the existing state Minimum Wage shall increase to $10.00 per hour, and then increase each September 30th thereafter by $1.00 per hour, until the Minimum Wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026.”
Each year, after beginning on Sept. 20, 2027, the State will calculate, as it currently does, the rate of inflation and adjust the minimum wage accordingly.
If you believe in a living wage, this looks like a reasonable way to achieve it. We believe, therefore La Gaceta endorses a “Yes” vote on Amendment 2.
Amendment 3
This would change the way we elect the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, commissioner of agriculture and Florida Legislature. Instead of having Democratic and Republican primaries, all candidates for an office would be placed on the ballot regardless of party. If there are more than two candidates, the group would be placed on the primary ballot. If there are only two, the group would be placed on the general election ballot. In the primary and general election, all voters, regardless of party, would vote.
The two candidates receiving the most votes would then be placed on the general election ballot, where all voters would vote again.
Political parties would still exist and could still nominate candidates, promote them and help finance campaigns.
Some believe this method would encourage more people to participate in elections and that the primaries would produce more moderate candidates.
Critics say minority representation could be hurt.
Under the present system, Democrats hold very few of these offices, so any change in the system could only help Democrats. It certainly couldn’t get worse.
La Gaceta cautiously endorses a “Yes” vote on Amendment 3.
Amendment 4
This change would require constitutional amendments to be approved twice by 60 percent of voters rather than the current requirement of once before becoming law.
It seems strange to believe 60 percent or more of the voters would vote yes on an issue and change their minds two years later.
La Gaceta endorses a “No” vote on Amendment 4.
Amendment 5
This amendment would be a benefit to homeowners, as it increases the time to transfer “Save Our Homes” homestead tax benefits from your old homestead to your new one from two to three years.
Extending the portability of the difference between the assessed value and the just value (market value) of your old homestead makes sense for a lot of people who want to build a new home or have delayed buying because of unforeseen circumstances, such as a pandemic.
La Gaceta endorses a “Yes” vote for Amendment 5.
Amendment 6
Currently, veterans age 65 or older, who apply, who are partially or totally permanently disabled, receive a discount on their homestead property equal to the percentage of their permanent service connected disability.
This amendment would transfer the discount to the spouse upon death of the veteran for as long as the spouse holds legal or beneficial title to the homesteaded property and permanently resides there. The surviving spouse can also transfer the discount to a new homestead.
If the spouse remarries, the discount is discontinued. This seems fair and just.
La Gaceta endorses a “Yes” vote for Amendment 6.

La Gaceta endorses Abel for Temple Terrace City Council.

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Oct. 9, 2020

There is one opening on the City Council and three candidates are vying for it.
David “Pogo” Pogorilich served on City Council in the past and wants to come back to public service. He’s well versed in city issues.
Raeh Khawaja is a civil engineer and now owns a small business in the city, S-N-K Beauty, Inc. He is energetic and passionate about helping his city.
Meredith Abel is a teacher and a martial arts instructor. She seems to be the most focused and well-rounded candidate on the ballot.
She wants to improve the business district, encourage a more socially conscious city government, protect the environment and build stronger connections with other governments and organizations. She is smart and a hard worker.
La Gaceta endorses Meredith Abel for Temple Terrace City Council.

La Gaceta endorses McClure for House District 58.

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Oct. 9, 2020

Republican incumbent Lawrence McClure is being challenged by Cleo L. “C.L.” Townsend, Jr.
Townsend is a 6th-generation Floridian who was raised in the panhandle. He served in the Peace Corps. He had a career in public health and community planning. He is active in the Plant City community. Townsend’s priorities are very much in line with the Democratic platform.
We discussed the budget shortfalls facing the State for the next couple of years due to COVID. He offers ideas not just to cut services but look for additional reserves, such as a financial transaction tax and repealing the corporate tax cut.
McClure is running for his 3rd term. He is a partner in a firm that does environmental mitigation, cleanup and petroleum tank removal. He is a conservative, which fits well in his mostly east Hillsborough County district. He works well with the local farmers and wants to get his district back to work. He offers a list of bipartisan votes on school and health insurance issues.
The district is very likely to remain Republican and McClure tells us he will work across the aisle to make things better.
La Gaceta endorses Lawrence McClure for State Representative District 58.

La Gaceta endorses Harrington for House District 64

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Oct. 9, 2020

District 64 serves the northwest part of Hillsborough and a part of Pinellas. This was Jamie Grant’s district, but he left in the middle of the campaign to accept an appointment by Governor DeSantis.
Traci Kloster was appointed by the Republican Party to take Grant’s place on the ballot. She is a family law attorney. She is pushing more charter schools and vouchers. She could not meet with us in time for this column.
Democrat Jessica Harrington has been campaigning for this office for two years and was prepared to run against the incumbent Jamie Grant. We’re not sure if the switch from Grant to Kloster is a benefit or not. She is a 7th grade civics teacher at Sgt. Paul R. Smith Middle School but is currently on sabbatical. She also taught elementary and high school. She recently worked for the non-profit Environmental Florida.
Harrington is passionate about public education and the environment and will take that passion to Tallahassee. She also will push to allow local government more control over development, environment and transportation issues. Fixing the criminal justice system is also high on her list.
La Gaceta endorses Jessica Harrington for State Representative District 64.

La Gaceta endorses Burgess for State Senate District 20.

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga, Oct. 9, 2020

This race is to replace Tom Lee, who is retiring. The seat covers parts of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.
Democrat Kathy Lewis is running for a second time for the seat. She challenged Lee in 2018. Danny Burgess is the Republican in the race.
Lewis has a background as a financial advocate and motivational speaker. She has a daughter with a disability and has been an advocate for children with disabilities and their families. She promised to continue this advocacy in the State Senate. She wants to expand access to healthcare by expanding Medicare and Medicaid. Also in her agenda is closing the gun show loophole, banning assault weapons, ending high-stakes testing and banning single-use plastic bags.
Lewis also volunteers to serve on many local boards, as does her opponent.
Burgess is an attorney who practices transactional law. He was born and raised in Zephyrhills and was elected to its City Council at the age of 18 and later became mayor. He was elected as the area’s state representative in 2014 and 2016. In 2018, Governor DeSantis appointed him as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He recently resigned to run for the State Senate. He is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve in the Judge Advocate General Corps. He and his wife have three young children.
Burgess has respect for home rule and local autonomy and worked to expand transportation infrastructure in Pasco County that is desperately needed.
Burgess is a little conservative for our taste, but he matches up better with his district and has the skills and connections to bring home needed funding for projects. He will also be in the majority, which will help. He knows the district very well and is a smart, seasoned legislator. We find him to be a good listener and he tells us he’ll be open to hear opposing ideas. He is also a supporter of historic preservation.
La Gaceta endorses Danny Burgess for State Senate District 20.

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