From equal rights for women to offshore oil drilling, lively exchanges sparked a three-hour “Candidates Night 1” hosted by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) at Kendall Village Center Community Pavilion on July 12.
Introductory remarks by candidates for state offices varied from simple name identity and background to mini-speeches before timelimits were called by Miles E. Moss, KFHA president, who moderated the first of three planned pre-election forums.
Eight Florida legislative races dominated the program that saw three of five candidates appear from Senate Districts 36 and 38, and 16 of 32 active House candidates who represent six district races with partial constituencies in Kendall.
Only business account manager Alexander Snitker, running on the Libertarian ticket, appeared among 22 currently seeking retired Sen. Mel Martinez’s U.S. Senate seat, now held by George LeMieux, appointee of Gov. Charlie Crist, who also is seeking the post.
After Snitker pledged he would vote on principle rather than political promises, Denny Wood, activist for the disabled, spoke briefly for former Miami mayor and county commissioner Maurice Ferre, claiming Ferre failed to receive an invitation to the event.
None of the 10 active candidates for the District 17 U.S. House seat attended with only spokespersons appearing to support Mariana Cancio, Paul Crespo and David Rivera, three of seven running for the District 25 seat.
State Rep. Julio Robaina, now seeking the Florida Senate District 36 seat and well-known to KFHA as a leader of condo and homeowner reform legislation, urged careful review of Aug. 24 primary candidates “since there are races without twoparty opposition, so a primary win automatically elects the winner of a 50 percent or more majority next November.” Robaina faces attorney Miguel A. Diaz de la Portilla who often appears as a legal representative in Kendall zoning matters but didn’t attend or send a spokesperson to the KFHA forum.
Wood, a candidates for the House District 114 seat, touched off the evening’s most avid responses when he asked all state candidates to give “yes or no” answers on adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment that he claimed has been pigeon-holed by Republicans in the legislature seven years with Florida as one 15 states delaying action.
After Senate District 38 candidate David Nelson termed acceptance “a no-brainer,” opponent State Rep. Anitere Flores, said she “would support any civil rights action” but feared potential amendment “could legalize abortion” in Florida.
Her comment raised a raucous audience reaction that quickly ended when Moss called for the next candidates as the panel’s Q&A time expired. Wood later disputed the issue with Community Council 10’s Carlos Manrique who debated the legality of amending a legislative resolution. Manrique appeared with Doral Mayor Willie Bermudez and Carlos Trujillo, three of six candidates for the House District 116 seat.
Wood shared a panel with Millie Herrera, former East Kendall Community Council member who prioritized helping small business owners and funding education. Two candidates, School Board member Ana Rivas-Logan and Robert Blanco, were no-shows.
The bulk of the evening’s time was taken with six contested House races. District 112’s lone appearing candidate, Doral Vice Mayor Robert Van Name, made an impassioned plea to “make Florida affordable again through across-the-board tax cuts” to overcome state budget deficits.
Christopher Blau, Jose Diaz and Jeffery Solomon, three of four candidates for the District 115 seat, largely echoed a common forum strain that newcomers to office will better serve the public than entrenched politicos subject to lobbyists and influential corporate interests. The fourth candidate, Carla Ascensio-Savola, did not appear due to a personal emergency that called her away from the session, Moss explained.
A variety of opinions on offshore oil drilling resulted when four State House District 117 candidates (Ernesto Martinez, Jose Pazos, Marcus Rivchin and Juan Robaina) offered opinions in reply to a question:
“Finding alternative energy solutions is the bottom line,” said Martinez, while Pazos said attitudes have changed sharply since “drill, baby, drill” days, adding that safety is now the primary concern rather than opening the doors deepwater drilling. Both Rivchin and Robaina agreed that safety was paramount, Robaina adding that the U.S. consumer market was becoming more “green conscious,” strengthening conservation objectives while diminishing unlimited oil exploration.
Three of four House District 119 candidates (each with different party affiliation) wound up the evening. These included businessman Frank Artiles (Republican), Farm Bureau executive director Katie Edwards (Democrat), and Graziella Renee (no party affiliation). Not appearing was the evening’s only Tea Party representative, Alejandro Fernandez.
Following the session, Marvin P. Stein, KFHA Political Action Committee chair, met with the board of governors to discuss candidate endorsements, which he said would be released prior to the next KFHA forum. Although the homeowner organization and PAC are separate entities, the slate advertised by the PAC carries strong weight with Kendall voters.
Candidates Night 2 is planned for Aug. 2, 7 p.m., at the pavilion. Also before the Aug. 24 primary the KFHA will invite candidates for county commission, school board, and Kendall community councils, as well as presenting summaries of six state constitutional amendments.
A third forum will take place on Sept. 13 for non-primary candidates, according to Moss, who has arranged the sessions, assisted by Lawrence Percival, executive vice president.