Endorsing the next Democratic governor

Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Aug. 10, 2022

Florida voters should have no doubt about the stakes of this year’s gubernatorial election.

What is being constructed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in Florida is a platform for his run for president in 2024. To do this, he is building in Florida the model of a DeSantis state along Trumpist lines.

It will be a state where there are no checks or balances on the governor’s pursuit of power, where science and data and truth and the health and well-being of residents are twisted or ignored in favor of politically-convenient fictions. It’s a place where extremism is embraced, intolerance enshrined and prejudice pursued.

And if this state of affairs succeeds in Florida in 2022, DeSantis will try to make it a model and take it national in 2024.

So the stakes in the Democratic gubernatorial primary go way beyond just the ambitions of two politicians seeking the nomination to take on DeSantis. It goes to the heart of preserving post-insurrection democracy.

When it comes to the gubernatorial ballot, every Democratic voter has to choose who is best capable of preserving democracy in Florida and the United States: Rep. Charles “Charlie” Crist (D-13-Fla.) or Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried.

The choice is the same kind that faced Democrats in the 2020 presidential nomination contest: should they go with a candidate of great experience, a proven track record, an older, white male who can attract moderate voters, seniors and perhaps disaffected Republicans and independents, or a newer, less proven, but more passionate and fiery candidate who also happens to be female? Is apparent electability more important than fervent commitment?  Does being right necessarily conflict with electoral success?

Early in-person voting in Lee and Collier counties begins Saturday, Aug. 13 (the last day to request a mail-in ballot) and runs until Saturday, Aug. 20. In Charlotte County it began on Aug. 8 and runs until Sunday, Aug. 21. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, Aug. 23. Mail-in ballots are already arriving.

This year both candidates bring great strengths to the contest and both face long odds against the incumbent.

The Crist chronicle

Crist, 66, brings long experience and knowledge, having served prior stints as governor, attorney general, education commissioner, and congressional representative. He is comfortable in Tallahassee and Washington, DC, as well as his own, native Tampa.

Although relatively low-key in manner, he is a formidable campaigner, having run in 10 races and won seven, not including primaries. He has an established fundraising network for this race and a significant bundle of heavyweight endorsements.

From a regional perspective, Crist is very familiar with Southwest Florida. As governor he brokered a deal to buy land owned by the US Sugar Corporation and use it to restore the Everglades system. At the time it was a bold and complex concept. Although its execution faced criticism and after Crist’s tenure it was never implemented as envisioned, it certainly moved in the right direction as far as the region’s environment was concerned. It also showed that such a deal could be done if approached with imagination and vigor and Crist was capable of conceiving such initiatives.

Another connection was less positive for Crist. It was in Fort Myers at a town hall meeting on Feb. 10, 2009 that his political world fell apart when he literally embraced the visiting President Barack Obama.

“It was the kind of hug I’d exchanged with thousands and thousands of Floridians over the years. I didn’t think a thing about it as it was happening,” Crist wrote in his memoir, The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat. The hug “ended my viable life as a Republican politician. I would never have a future in my old party again.”

Since then Crist has run as an independent and a Democrat. It has led to charges of political opportunism and distrust about his commitment to any political principle.

But it can also be seen in a different way: as an ability to evolve and change and grow, especially as he left a Republican party that he characterized as having “pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people”—and this was before Donald Trump came on the political scene.

The Fried factor

In contrast to Crist there has never been any doubt about Nikki Fried’s loyalties or commitment to the Democratic Party.

Fried, 44, is the only Democrat to currently hold a statewide elected office. Prior to her 2018 election she had a lengthy career in the law both in public and private practice. She’s been a corporate lawyer, a public defender, a foreclosure defense real estate lawyer and a lobbyist, mainly for the medical marijuana industry.

Her current post is the first electoral position she’s held and she won it by a hairsbreadth margin of 6,753 votes—and that after two recounts.

She’s been widely identified with the effort to legalize medical marijuana, having seen the disproportionate impact of criminalization in black and poor communities. She’s argued for the economic benefits of a legal cannabis sector and actively tried to roll back legal barriers to its sale and use.

However, Fried has gone well beyond that one topic and as Commissioner of Agriculture has dealt with a wide variety of matters, as she must. Beyond the issues that politicians pick and choose she’s clear and unambiguous about the major ones: she’s emphatically pro-choice, she supports LGBTQ rights and she’s vigorously urging that gun violence be stopped by all means available.

But most striking has been her battle to stop the encroaching authoritarianism of the DeSantis administration. Isolated in an otherwise Republican Cabinet, ostracized by a rubberstamp Republican legislature, vilified and defamed, over the past four years Fried fought on in every way she could to maintain an open, secular inclusive government. She has called out the hypocrisy, the actual lies and the malicious disregard for Floridians’ health during the pandemic and denounced the governor’s every move to restrict voting rights and intellectual—and actual—freedom.

Endorsement

The overriding issue in this election is whether democracy will survive in Florida and, by extension, in the United States.

Anything else is mere commentary. Without democracy there can be no rights of any kind, there will be no freedom, there will be no liberty. Democracy is the fundamental bedrock on which everything else rests.

Nikki Fried, by demonstrating her persistence, her indefatigability, her devotion to constitutional government as well as her demonstrated care for the health, wealth and wellbeing of all Floridians, should serve as the next governor of the state of Florida.

From an old-school political standpoint, her candidacy may not present the most conventional choice. No doubt many undecided Floridians may be put off by the fact that she’s a woman and an outspoken democrat.

However, at a time when the very foundations of American politics and the Constitution are at risk her clear commitment to the ideals of the American experiment is what’s needed, especially in Florida where they’re most at risk.

As a candidate she has an immense task before her: if nominated she needs to unite Democrats, win over undecided voters and Republicans alienated from the Trumpist extremism of their party. She has to overcome DeSantis’ advantages in party organization and fundraising. She has to turn back a tide of fanaticism and reaction encroaching on Floridians’ lives, minds and fortunes.

Nonetheless, Fried seems up to the task. At the very core of this election there can be no doubt that Fried is a democrat with both an uppercase and a lowercase “d.”

Nikki Fried should be the next governor of the great state of Florida.

Commissioner Nikki Fried

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Banyai formally launches campaign, Donalds rejects infrastucture improvement: the SWFL state of play today

July 2, 2021 by David Silverberg

As Hurricane Elsa churns her way across the Atlantic Ocean, storms of a different kind are brewing in Southwest Florida.

Cindy Banyai (Photo: Banyai for Congress Campaign)

Even though the 2022 election is a year and a half away the wind is picking up as Cindy Banyai, last year’s Democratic candidate for the 19th Congressional District, formally launches her campaign against Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).

Banyai is launching the campaign over the first 12 days of July with a variety of events.

Upcoming events to date are:

First endorsement

On June 21st Banyai announced the first endorsement of the campaign when she was endorsed by No Dem Left Behind, a Democratic organization that says it “has learned from experience that the most conservative districts in the country have Democratic candidates popular enough to beat a Republican opponent.”

The No Dem Left Behind logo.

The organization stated it was endorsing Banyai because she “is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work, to be the voice in Washington D.C. for the people of her community.”

“This latest endorsement is a big step towards helping us change the narrative in Florida,” stated Banyai.

Donalds marks six months in office

July 3rd marks six months that Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has been in office.

In his most recent vote, Donalds voted against the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act (House Resolution (HR) 3684), which provides $550 billion for infrastructure and transportation improvements.

The bill passed the House yesterday, July 1, by a vote of 221 to 201.

In addition to Donalds, Southwest Florida’s other representatives, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill.

Surfside collapse

In addition to voting against improving America’s infrastructure, Donalds took the time to attack Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for daring to suggest that climate change might have had a role in the collapse of part of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

“I was appalled by [Jennifer Granholm’s] recent comments blaming sea level rise & climate change for the tragedy that has struck Surfside, FL. Stop using this disaster to fuel your political agenda,” he tweeted.

What was the terrible thing Granholm said?

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

“We know that the seas are rising,” she said in an interview on CNN. “We know that we’re losing inches and inches of beach, it’s not just in Florida but all around. This is a phenomena that will continue. We’ll have to wait and see what the analysis is for this building but the issue about resiliency and making sure we adapt to this changing climate, that’s going to mean levees are going to have to be built, that means that sea walls need to be built, infrastructure needs to be built.”

Donalds was not unique in his ostentatious outrage over these comments. Conservative media are piling on—this in the wake of the condo collapse, the unprecedented heat dome over much of the country and the approach of Hurricane Elsa in the Atlantic.

It’s worth noting that while Donalds sent “thoughts and prayers” to the victims in Surfside, he voted against improving American infrastructure for the future.

Unfilled numbers

On June 24th, Donalds and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced the Unnecessary Agency Regulations Reduction Act (HR 4132) “to consolidate or repeal unnecessary agency major rules, and for other purposes.”

However, in what has been a pattern, Donalds did not submit any text for the bill, just a name and number.

This means that the real work of legislation has not been done and there is no content, no thought and no substance to it. Nonetheless, Donalds was able to boast of a name and number in a press release.

A happy July 4th to all.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida Democrats mobilize to aid Georgia effort

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Nov. 28, 2020 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida Democrats are looking beyond the Sunshine State, focusing their efforts on Georgia where two races will determine the balance of power in the Senate that takes office in 2021.

The Georgia runoff election is scheduled for Jan. 5 and candidates are campaigning fiercely for the two seats, with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock seeking to defeat Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

On Nov. 19, Democrat Cindy Banyai, who ran for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, announced that she had been named co-chair of the national United for Georgia organization.

“My role is to help promote fundraising for the on-the-ground local organizations who are connecting with the communities there for voter registration, get-out-the-vote, and persuasion,” she stated in response to questions from The Paradise Progressive. “I’m also working to recruit virtual volunteers for things like phonebanking and connecting the group with student volunteers to be part of their special intern program.”

United for Georgia was founded by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15-Calif.) who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019. It is part of his Remedy PAC (political action committee), which he founded “to change Congress and elect Democrats who will go big with the issues we tackle, be bold in the solutions we offer, and do good with the way we govern.”

Banyai said she was honored to serve as co-chair. “It’s so important to amplify the local leaders and organizations in their on-the-ground efforts to get voters excited about Ossoff and Warnock. National coalitions like United for Georgia do the most good by supporting local efforts and building strong networks to make long term change.”

She also believes that her work on behalf of the Georgia candidates will help in Southwest Florida.

“My involvement with United for Georgia is also a great opportunity to see the organizing efforts that brought a blue wave to Georgia,” she stated. “I’m looking forward to bringing these lessons back to make major changes to the business as usual efforts of the Florida Democratic Party.”

In Collier County, Annisa Karim, chair of the local Democratic Party called on Democrats to mobilize on behalf of Warnock and Ossof by doing phone banking.

“We know that President-elect Joe-Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take their rightful places on January 20, 2021 but the make-up of the Senate is still unclear,” she announced in a Nov. 21, statement. “That means our work is not done.”

The Lee County Democratic Party is also helping organize volunteers to send texts and make phone calls in Georgia.

The Collier County Republican Party is making similar efforts on the Republican side.

Southwest Floridians can assist the Georgia Democratic effort by contacting Remedy PAC directly, by donating or by volunteering.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Editorial: ‘Ridin’ with Biden’ caravan should greet Trump in Fort Myers on Friday

A “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan in Collier County on Aug. 16. (Image: WINK News)

Last night, Oct. 13, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson (R) alerted local media that President Donald Trump would be visiting Fort Myers in some capacity on Friday, Oct. 16.

The exact nature of the visit is unclear as of this writing: whether it will be a rally or just a visit, a drive-through or a meeting with local politicians. Also undetermined is the exact location of Trump’s appearance and whether it will be an event that will be held indoors or outdoors.

Whatever the final disposition, there’s little doubt that it will be a COVID-19 super spreader event. If a rally or speech, the president’s supporters will no doubt gather unmasked in tight groups. Lee County will be dealing with coronavirus fallout for weeks to come—if people are infected on Friday, they will likely become symptomatic around two weeks later. Any rally or gathering has the potential to create a wave of infections that could overwhelm Lee County medical facilities.

At the same time, a Trump visit provides the potential for Southwest Florida Democrats and supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden (D) to show their support for him and register their disapproval of Trump.

A “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan through Fort Myers on Friday would be a safe, peaceful and appropriate response to a Trump visit, demonstrating the spirit and determination of Southwest Florida’s democratic community—and showing that local Trumpism is neither monolithic nor unchallenged.

A similar caravan in The Villages of Florida on Saturday, Oct. 10, gained national attention when it greeted Vice President Mike Pence’s arrival.

Southwest Florida can do its part for American democracy and a Joe Biden victory. The time is short but the stakes are high and the need is great.

(This story will be updated as new details become available.)

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Endorsement: Good over evil

Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Sept. 27, 2020

Most of us lead our lives in shades of gray.

Daily, we make innumerable decisions of small importance. Our moral choices are usually of light significance and we select among options of greater or lesser compromise.

But every so often, perhaps only once in a lifetime, we face a choice of great consequence that is stark, uncompromising and absolute, one that has no shades of gray, only black or white.

This is such a time.

As Americans we still have a vote and if the mechanisms of our 244 years of self-rule and independence hold, that vote will count toward how we’re governed and determine our future and that of the nation.

This year the choice is between absolute good and absolute evil. Donald Trump and what he represents is evil. Joe Biden and what he represents is good.

Without hesitation or reservation we endorse good.

A dark reign

As has been stated in the past, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, online or print or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

This year the choice is stark but it is also easy.

The crimes, the corruption, the incompetence, the treason, the delusions, the divisiveness, the debaucheries and the failures of Donald John Trump have been amply documented throughout the past three-plus years.

To list them yet again is beyond the scope of this essay. Reiterating Donald Trump’s failings and evildoing is cathartic but unproductive, like being caught in an emotional whirlpool in a sea of hate.

Beyond the ugliness of this vile and vicious person we have also seen the depressing spectacle of what he has done to Americans’ sense of themselves as decent, moral, independent individuals. He has imposed a toxic and twisted personality and mindset on a nation that was once free, proud and brave and needs to be again.

America was founded amidst an age of absolute monarchs who said they ruled by divine right. The colonists who declared independence in 1776 could see that it was untenable to be governed by the whims and frailties of a single, fallible human being, no matter how much he glorified or exalted himself. When they won their freedom Americans put their faith in reason, in equality, in a spirit of sensible compromise and most of all, in institutions embodied in their Constitution. Those institutions included equal justice under the rule of law, checks and balances on power, and democratic participation.

Their faith worked and was rewarded. Those beliefs built the greatest, freest, most prosperous nation of any time or place in history. It was a light to the world, a shining city on a hill, an inspiration to all humanity, the scourge of tyrants, the refuge of huddled masses yearning to breathe free and the last, best hope of earth.

Donald Trump threatens all of that at the most fundamental level. That’s why it’s appropriate to put this contest in elemental terms of “good” and “evil.” It’s why it’s proper to speak of the “soul” of both the nation and its people. Joe Biden has called this a fight for the nation’s soul and he’s right.

And lest anyone think that these broad themes don’t apply at the local level, one need only look at this summer’s political contest here in Southwest Florida.

In this region’s Republican primaries we saw the spectacle of otherwise accomplished and sensible people abandoning reasoned decency and discourse in an effort to imitate Donald Trump. They spewed insults, fear, prejudice, subservience and flattery to win his favor and that of his most fanatical followers. They didn’t campaign for office; they worshipped a false god.

This is what Trump will reduce us all to if he’s given another term in office. He has attacked every institutional pillar of American governance; in a second term he would demolish them.

It also needs to be said that the Party of Trump is not the Republican Party, which once valued individualism, free thought and personal autonomy. The Trump Party is a mindless cult and, sadly, every Republican candidate has sworn fealty to it.

Returning to good

There is a saying that “America is great because it is good. When it ceases to be good it will cease to be great.” The line is attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French 19th century observer of America. While there’s some dispute whether he actually wrote that, even if he didn’t he should have, because it’s true.

It is one of the cruelest ironies of history that Donald Trump should have as his slogan “make America great again” because by leading America so far from goodness he has taken it so far from greatness.

In fact, it really is time to make America great again by making America good again and, as Joe Biden says, “build back better.”

We can all still do that with our votes. The time is now, while our votes still count and we’re still free. We need to preserve that freedom.

Therefore, here in Southwest Florida, we endorse the entire Democratic ticket and urge voters to vote Democratic straight down the line starting with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president, Cindy Banyai for Congress and the entire slate of Democrats for all state and local offices.

You can see complete lists of Democratic candidates on the Lee County Democratic Party website and the Collier County Democratic website.

This year, like no other in America’s history, each of us needs to ensure that evil is defeated. Each and every one of us needs to make America good again.

Vote.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Rachel Brown: Powering to the polls

Rachel Brown (Photo: Rachel Brown Campaign)

Sept. 10, 2020 by David Silverberg

Like many people, Rachel Brown’s politics and understanding of the world has evolved—but she’s had a lot further to go and started at an earlier age than most.

Born in 1994 and raised in Naples, Fla., Brown’s father made money selling guns at gun shows. She was raised in a house without air conditioning with Fox News blaring in the background. Until the third grade she was home schooled but then her mother, a teacher by profession, worked three jobs to afford the tuition to send her to private school at the Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers.

It was an upbringing that might have produced a woman with narrow expectations, a limited perspective on the world and conservative political views.

Instead, today Brown is the progressive candidate for the Florida state Senate in District 27, determined to protect the district’s natural environment, ensure a decent life for its people and tackle the challenges that face them.

“I’m a liberal who comes from conservative roots,” she says. “I’m tired of my legislators ignoring issues like harmful algal blooms, the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases, and the massive homeless crisis on the rise.”

Center of gravity

State Senate District 27 includes Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva. It is the center of population in Lee County. The Caloosahatchee River runs through it to its shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Senate District 27

The District is currently represented by Republican Sen. Elizabeth Benaquisto, who is term-limited and stepping down.

Benaquisto’s retirement set off a ferocious primary battle to succeed her between state House Reps. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Fort Myers Beach) and Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers), a battle so bitter they appeared in dueling TV ads firing guns, with the barely disguised implication they would gladly turn those guns on each other.

By then, Brown was already a declared candidate for the seat. She was approached by state Sen. Gary Farmer (D-34) the designated Senate minority leader, who urged Brown not to run so that Democrats could vote in an open Republican primary and elect the more moderate Fitzenhagen.

However, Brown refused, saying “How can I tell people I’ve marched with that I changed my mind, I’m not going to run, and they should go vote for a mediocre Republican instead who’s just going to take their taxes and use it for corporate handouts? And how can I take a backroom deal that represents the behavior I’m fighting to end?”

On Aug. 18 Rodrigues decisively defeated Fitzenhagen.

Given the past Republican nature of the District, the conventional wisdom is that it will remain the same.

Brown is determined to prove that assumption wrong. As her campaign slogan puts it: “Defy the norm!”

“Incredibly urgent”

After three years in private school, Brown attended Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples for a year and then began going part time to Florida Gulf Coast University, where she is still studying.

“I wasn’t planning to run for office before I got my degree,” she says. “But it’s incredibly urgent that I do it now.”

Brown is training as an environmental engineer and it was her sensitivity and understanding of the environment—and particularly the relationship of the District with its natural setting—that powered her run for office.

“Water quality is the big issue for everyone,” she observes. “Anyone in Southwest Florida has seen the degradation of our water and the algae blooms. My whole life I’ve heard folks that have been around longer than I have say that the water used to be a bright, beautiful crystal blue, not like the brown and black plumes we see today.”

“I believe every person should have a legal right to clean air and clean water; a right that citizens of District 27 do not currently have,” she says, adding that she’s ready to fight for that right in Tallahassee.

She’s also angry that important environmental legislation has repeatedly been put off or deferred by the state legislature.

“Every time they see an environmental group trying to do something good they try to stop it,” she says.

She’s particularly incensed by what she calls the deceptively named Clean Waterways Act, which has been signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

While the law puts in place a variety of water purity regulations and procedures, it also takes away the power of local governments to extend legal rights to plants, animals or bodies of water, so that their purity or health can be protected in court. Brown believes there needs to be an environmental bill of rights and says she will work to repeal the Act in order to pass a better alternative.

It’s mainly on these environmental issues that she most disagrees with her opponent. During the primary, Rodrigues was painted as a tool of the sugar industry around Lake Okeechobee, earning him the nickname “Sugar Ray.” Water from the lake is blamed for much of the pollution that flows down the Caloosahatchee River and dumps into the waters of the 27th District, clogging the canals of Cape Coral with algal mats and causing blue-green algae blooms along the river’s shores.

“He’s everything I am not,” says Brown. “He doesn’t seem to put the people of Lee County first.”

Stress tests

While the natural environment is critical to sustaining life and the 27th District’s economy, that life is under stress from the pandemic and the economy has been badly battered.

Nonetheless, Brown is optimistic: “I truly believe that a combination of individual and community efforts can make everyone’s lives better,” she says. “There are so many positive changes to be made when we work together.”

She points out that in Lee County the average cost of rent has increased by 19 percent since 2001 while the average income has gone up by only 4 percent, meaning that working people cannot keep up. She favors increasing the minimum wage to a livable level of $15 over six years. “If people aren’t making enough to live they’re going to need help,” she says.

She has seen homelessness in Lee County in person while working food service jobs. With the pandemic and economic crash she fears that homelessness is likely to increase and the county has to be ready for it.

People also need their healthcare, which she vows to protect, and she wants to expand Medicaid in the state.

Will she be branded a “socialist” for all this? Ironically, she points out, Rodrigues himself praised socialized healthcare. It came during a League of Women Voters forum when he commended Sweden’s approach to the COVID crisis by trying to develop herd immunity—covered by its socialized healthcare.

Brown also supports mask mandates to protect people from coronavirus.

Given her father’s past gun dealing, Brown says she’s comfortable with gun ownership as long as owners behave legally and responsibly. However, she feels they should be held liable for the use of their weapons. She really takes issue with Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

“Stand your ground as it is doesn’t do the job it was intended to do,” she argues. “It shouldn’t be allowed to be used in an offensive way.”

One issue that is close to her heart is that of infrastructure—good public transportation and safe streets—and for a very personal reason.

In 2004 her 12-year-old brother Eric was killed in a hit-and-run incident while he was riding his bicycle in Golden Gate Estates. Brown believes the culprit—who was never caught—was drunk or on drugs.

The incident made her determined to work for greater road safety. “We have a lack of city planning,” she notes. “A lot of the county is considered a rural environment but that’s just a way to excuse the lack of planning. We need better planning because then we’ll have safer roadways and fewer emissions.”

Her stance on infrastructure has won her an endorsement from Thomas Kanell, creator of ABetterLeeTran.com, a website advocating improved public transportation in Lee County. He called her “a courageous activist whose focus on the needs of everyday people and on preserving the environment is a fresh alternative from the money-driven politics that have characterized elections in our state.”

Her brother’s death also convinced Brown that alcohol and drugs need to be gotten off the streets. “Drug possession in and of itself is not the issue,” she maintains. “Driving under the influence of drugs and reckless driving in general is. Rather than busting people in their homes for drug consumption, we need to keep it off the roads.”

A public servant

Brown is fully aware that running as a Democrat in what has to date been a Republican district is a long, difficult battle against heavy odds. Her opponent is deep-rooted, backed by the Republican establishment and well-funded.

“At the start of my campaign, I innocently imagined a full paid staff; leaders of volunteer crews, managers, and social media people,” she recounts. “Now I realize that’s not going to happen.”

Instead, small donations have enabled her to order and distribute a hundred face masks and face shields. In addition to using social media she’s purchased yard signs and been able to produce a 30-second television advertisement. She’s planning to send out mailers.

In what she calls a game-changing development, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee organization called Red to Blue is helping her with software and text message campaigning.

She’s been endorsed by other candidates like congressional candidate Cindy Banyai and Anselm Weber, running for the Florida House in District 76.

Interestingly enough, she’s also getting Republican help from supporters of Heather Fitzenhagen who were disgusted by Rodrigues’ primary campaign.

 “Many women are angered by Ray’s vicious campaign against Heather which ultimately lost her the primary,” she observes. “In order to win, I need support from all women and I’m delighted by those who have joined me.”

She acknowledges that “It’s hard being a grassroots candidate,” but adds, “I’m powering to the polls.”

Among the many promises and pledges that are made on the campaign trail, there’s one Brown is absolutely determined to keep: “My biggest celebration when I win will be to finally pay for air conditioning for my mother,” she says.

To learn more about Rachel Brown, visit her website, Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

Roundup: Signs of unity; Dems team up; Rep. Rooney denounces Trump tax order

Video of a racist sign vandal fleeing the Seed to Table parking lot. (Image: WINK News)

Sept. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg

It is a rare moment nowadays when Democrats and Republicans can agree on anything–but it has actually happened in Collier County.

Yesterday, Sept. 3, the chairs of the Collier County Democratic Party and Collier County Republicans issued a joint statement “condemning the vandalism and theft of political signs. Not only is it unlawful, it is disrespectful and anti-democratic.”

The statement is signed by Annisa Karim, the county Democratic chairwoman and Russell Tuff, the Republican chairman.

“As the election gets closer, many of us become more passionate about the candidates we support,” says the statement. “That’s true for us, and it’s true for our neighbors. The beauty of the First Amendment to our Constitution is that it protects everyone’s right to free speech—theirs and ours!”

Reports of lawn sign theft, removal and vandalism appeared throughout the month of August.

The signs of Jim Molenaar, county candidate for clerk of the court, were defaced and when he personally confronted the vandal in a parking lot, the vandal fled.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), Republican congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District, had his signs in the parking lot of the Seed to Table market defaced with racial slurs; Donalds is African American. In his case an arrest was made of Jeffrey Rouse, 40, after Rouse went on a racist rant against an African American woman in a video that went viral. Arrested following a 100 mile-per-hour chase by police, Rouse was suspected of defacing of Donalds’ signs.

Drew-Montez Clark, also African-American and a Republican candidate for Donalds’ Florida House seat, also had his signs vandalized with racial slurs.

Individuals have also reported sign thefts and disappearances in letters to the editors of local newspapers.

The sign vandalism and thefts mostly occurred during the primary races but passions are expected to rise as the general election approaches.

The joint Democratic and Republican Collier County party statement concludes: “Let’s decide the election at the ballot box!”

Mutual endorsements in the 19th and 17th

Two Democratic congressional candidates have endorsed each other and are planning mutually supportive activities.

Cindy Banyai, the Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District and Allen Ellison in the 17th District issued their mutual endorsements yesterday, Sept. 3.

Banyai is facing Byron Donalds. Ellison is taking on incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), a vocal and strident supporter of President Donald Trump.

While the endorsement announcement did not list any actions the candidates would be taking together, they are discussing mutual events and activities, according to Banyai.

Rooney dissents from Trump payroll tax order

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), yesterday, Sept. 3, issued a two-tweet thread opposing Trump’s executive order deferring payroll taxes for federal employees. Trump’s opposition to the payroll tax threatens the Social Security program.

“The employee portion payroll tax deferral is a reckless idea that will put many employees in jeopardy for the deferred liability when it becomes due, since they will have already spent the deferred amounts,” Rooney stated in his first tweet. “This is truly an unworkable idea and can only result in more disastrous policy. Deferred amounts will either be forgiven or reimbursed by the federal government or worse, employers will be required to pay them,” he added in the second.

Trump has called for a national payroll tax cut or deferment of 6.2 percent. The action would severely impact the Social Security program, which is funded through the tax.

Congress, including many Republican members, is unwilling to pass the cut and many businesses are reluctant to implement it. With negotiations on a larger stimulus package deadlocked, Trump chose to act on his own.

On Aug. 8, Trump issued a memorandum to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin deferring the taxes for 1.3 million federal employees, which he has the authority to do. However, while the withholding is deferred for 2020, the taxes will have to be paid by the employees next year and would result in smaller paychecks.

 Everett Kelley, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, has called the Trump action “a scam that leaves workers with a substantial tax bill right after the holiday season. Workers will have to pay double their regular payroll tax rate during the first four months of 2021, and if they cannot do so, they will have to pay interest and penalties on amounts still owed if they’re not paid back by May 1, 2021,” 

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Anselm Weber and the spirit of 76

Anselm Weber (Photo: Anselm Weber for Florida House District 76)

Sept. 3, 2020 by David Silverberg

When Anselm Weber, the Democratic candidate for Florida House District 76, talks about helping working people, he knows whereof he speaks: Like so many starting out in life he’s held jobs in fast food and convenience stores. At one point he sold hot sauce at the Pepper Palace in Sarasota.

“I’ve had a lot of jobs with little pay,” recalls the 24-year old Florida native and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) graduate. “The highest pay I got was $10 an hour.”

He knows what it’s like to have money be tight. He lost his mother to a heart attack when he was 14 years old and was raised by his father, an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa.

His early jobs gave Weber a perspective on the world of work, the long hours, low pay and meager benefits and the needs of working people. Thanks to his history studies at FGCU, where he graduated this past December, he’s been able to put those experiences into a larger perspective.

One of Weber’s more recent jobs was with NextGen Florida, an offshoot of NextGen America, a progressive political organization founded by billionaire and former presidential Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer. There, Weber helped register voters and update their voting information, particularly on the Florida Southwest University campus where he engaged students and encouraged political participation.

“That experience helped confirm that more people felt the way I felt,” he recalled in an interview with The Paradise Progressive. “I was organizing a lot of young people. The ones who were engaged had a different worldview from those who were disengaged. Those didn’t feel incentivized.” Despite that, Weber believes his efforts helped over a thousand students.

Weber is now seeking to put that hands-on knowledge—of hard work and political activism—in the service of the people in Florida House District 76.

Water, water, everywhere

Florida House District 76

The 76th District encompasses the coast of Lee County. It starts at the northern Lee County line at Pine Island and includes Captiva and Sanibel Islands. On the mainland it includes Punta Rassa, Iona, Harlem Heights, Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs to the southern Lee County line.

Since 2012 the District has been represented in Tallahassee by Ray Rodrigues, a Republican politician who spent his previous career in Lee County positions. Rodrigues is term-limited and this year is running for the State Senate against Democrat Rachel Brown.

Water looms over all the District’s other physical attributes. Consisting of low-lying islands and coastal communities, it’s vulnerable to hurricanes, storm surges, sea level rise, erosion and all the ills of climate change. Polluted water from Lake Okeechobee dumps into San Carlos Bay and the Gulf, giving rise to red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms. Here, climate change is not an abstraction; it’s a clear and present reality—and danger.

“We have 3 years left to stop a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures, which is the threshold we cannot cross to stop massive climate catastrophe,” Weber’s written. “We have a plan for this in Florida. We are especially hard hit from sea level rise and increasingly harsher hurricanes. That is why several FL state candidates have come together and crafted a Green Jobs Program for Florida.”

Formally known as the Florida Climate and Economic Defense Initiative, the Green Jobs Program, of which Weber was a founder, will both combat climate change directly while also helping the District’s need for good-paying jobs, he argues.

But it’s not just the overall climate that presents a threat. The District’s water, Weber has written, “is constantly under assault.” Ray Rodrigues’ relationship with the sugar industry around Lake O brought him the most fire from his primary opponent, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers). She accused him of being a puppet of Big Sugar.

When it comes to upstream water polluters, Weber says, “we really have to go after them. If we find polluters we revoke the licenses of farms that are polluting and we get the companies to pay back for the pollution. I think we can go after these companies.”

He is calling for reforming the Clean Waterways Act to manage Lake O runoff and sequester its polluting carbon, phosphorous and nitrogen.

A stressful time

While protecting and preserving the District’s natural environment is vital, it’s helping its over 150,000 people that really drives Weber.

He’s running in an unusually challenging time. There’s the coronavirus pandemic, a devastating economic crash and the uncertain future of the businesses built on tourism, hospitality and seasonal influxes.  “People are struggling,” he says.

In Lee County rent increases have outstripped wages by 9 percent and with the economic crash 51 percent of renters nationwide are at risk of eviction, he points out.

“It’s abominable to throw people out of their homes while a pandemic is raging through our state. We need to keep the eye on the ball with this crisis. Working and poor Floridians are the most at risk because of this crisis,” he says.

“Before COVID-19, Florida had a 13 percent poverty rate and 56 percent of renters were spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing,” he has written. “The state minimum wage is $8.46, which is almost half of what a living wage is for Florida. Now with the harshest economic recession since the Great Depression, Florida is in desperation mode and we need people in office who will fight for working Floridians.”

What’s worse, all this is occurring at a time when people’s healthcare is under threat. President Donald Trump and his followers are relentlessly attempting to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe we need universal healthcare for the state of Florida,” Weber maintains. “We need to fight for universal healthcare for Florida so no one is foregoing essential medical needs simply because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs.”

He’s particularly incensed by the treatment of veterans’ healthcare needs. “The GOP in Florida refuses to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act,” he points out. “These men and women have served their country yet the GOP does not believe we should expand healthcare so our veterans can get the healthcare they need. I’ll fight for Medicaid expansion so no veteran goes without the healthcare they need.”

He’s also fully conscious that if elected one of the first issues he’s going to be facing will be participating in re-drawing the legislative maps based on the 2020 census. He’s calling for an end to gerrymandering and fair and equitable redistricting.

“We should district the state so the lines are proportional, fair and balanced,” he says. “I’m not in favor of Democrats doing the exact same gerrymandering as Republicans.”

Getting there

In the general election Weber is facing Adam Botana, from Bonita Springs, who calls himself a businessman although it’s unclear from his campaign website and social media postings exactly what business he’s in.

“Personally, he seems like a chummy guy. But he’s running on Trump’s agenda,” says Weber.

Botana, a first-time political candidate, is backed by corporate and ideological political action committees (PACs) like Novartis Finance Corporation, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Good Government Committee, the Associated Industries of Florida PAC and A Bold Future for Florida, a politically conservative PAC.

During Botana’s primary run his opponent, Jason Maughan, portrayed him as a wild party animal with a 2012 misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence and seven reckless driving citations.

Adam Botana, as depicted in an ad by his primary opponent, Jason Maughan.

No one is hurling accusations at Weber—yet. But is he worried about being smeared with the “Socialist” label that Trump and his minions are throwing around?

“The Republicans say you’re a socialist if you’re picking up groceries for your grandma,” he laughs.

Weber is fully aware that he’s facing an uphill fight. The District has long voted Republican, is overwhelmingly white (83.5 percent) and older (29.6 percent between the ages of 60 and 74).

Nonetheless, these are extraordinary times and they may yield extraordinary results—and extraordinary change. In this he may be aided by his support for the top of the Democratic ticket.

“I’m voting for Joe Biden, no matter what,” he says. “I think he’s the best candidate right now.”

For Weber the experience of running for office has its highs and lows—but the ultimate goal justifies the effort.

“It is stressful. It’s a lot to deal with,” he admits. But “it’s really exhilarating to really engage with people. There are a lot of moving parts but it’s a worthwhile experience. This gives me a good place to be advocating for change in Florida.”

To learn more about Anselm Weber see his website or Facebook page.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Battle of the underdogs: Banyai vs. Donalds and SWFL’s state of play today

Cindy Banyai
Byron Donalds

Aug. 21, 2020 by David Silverberg

The winners of the Florida 19th Congressional District primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 18 were both underdogs in their respective primary races—but that’s where their similarities end.

On the Democratic side, when the race began, Cindy Banyai was the new girl in town, starting from scratch—people didn’t even know how to pronounce her name. (Ban-YAY, with a hard A.) She was a first time candidate up against David Holden who had run for Congress in 2018. As a result of that run, Holden was well known in Collier County, had established fundraising networks, name recognition and a base of supporters. Banyai never raised his kind of campaign money–$85,548.50 in receipts as of July 31, compared to Holden’s $229,760.19, according to the Federal Election Commission.

On the Republican side, Byron Donalds, although already a sitting state legislator, entered a crowded field relatively late in the game. He was up against two wealthy, largely self-funded candidates in Casey Askar and William Figlesthaler, both of whom bought lots of TV air time. In his fellow state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) he was facing an established political figure who spent his whole adulthood in politics and served as majority leader in the state legislature. In an additional advantage, Eagle was based in Cape Coral, the demographic center of gravity of the 19th District.

Although both Banyai and Donalds were underdogs, each responded to their underdog status in different ways.

Banyai simply worked extremely hard all the time from the moment she declared her candidacy in September, before Rep. Francis Rooney announced his retirement. She sent out a constant stream of tweets, pronouncements, statements and a direct mail flyer. She wrote op-eds that appeared on the environment and Social Security. She held weekly virtual coffees and town halls. She energetically built coalitions and networks, vigorously reached out to other candidates and actively sought their endorsements. In at least one instance her outreach included Republicans. With traditional in-person campaigning curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the constant digital campaigning stood her in good stead.

Lee County Democratic results (Lee County Election Office)

Collier County Democratic results (Collier County Election Office)

Donalds came by his underdog status because of the amount of money arrayed against him. He could not outraise or provide personal funds that could match Askar or Figlesthaler. But Donalds compensated by pledging his ideological soul to the conservative cause and winning the endorsement of organizations like Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association. Super political action committees (PACs) that could spend unlimited amounts supporting his candidacy made up the difference.

Lee County Republican election results (Lee County Election Office)
Collier County election results (Collier County Elections Office)

It did not hurt him that, as he himself said: “I’m everything the fake news media says doesn’t exist: a Donald Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment black man.” As one of the very few African American conservative Trumpers (another one, Herman Cain, died of COVID after attending a Trump rally unmasked), Donalds had the potential to inoculate the Trump right from charges of racism, making him extremely valuable to the Trumpist cause. Of all the candidates endorsed by Club for Growth, he was the only African American.

The outside PAC funding ultimately made the difference for Donalds, allowing him to narrow the broadcast advertising gap.

Although Eagle received a higher vote total than Donalds in Lee County, late on election night he conceded to Donalds, as did Figlesthaler. As of this writing, nothing public has been heard from Casey Askar or the other Republican candidates, although none of their vote totals came close to Donalds’.

State of play

As the general election battle begins, both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses.

Having won her primary, Banyai will now be receiving new endorsements (including one from David Holden, which should be coming since both candidates pledged to actively support the winner). Local Democratic Party organizations should be offering support, volunteer efforts and funding. If local media do their due diligence, they will acknowledge her campaign (in the past local media outlets have just ignored Democrats) and she may receive national media attention. Her fundraising should be enhanced and new sources will likely open up to her. This year, unlike 2018 when Rep. Rooney simply refused to debate and local organizations passively accepted his disdain, there may be actual formal debates where she’ll have a chance to explain her platform and gain a wider audience.

But in addition to her proven hard work and initiative, Banyai has the advantage of identifying with a popular candidate at the head of the ticket and a groundswell of urgency and desperation in the electorate that goes well beyond party divides. In Joe Biden, Banyai connects to a figure who has wide acceptance, as demonstrated by his consistently high polling data. There also appears to be increasing support from traditional Republicans repulsed by Donald Trump.  What is more, the entire state of Florida is showing increasing signs of moving in a Democratic direction.

On the Republican side, having won his primary, Donalds will now receive the support of the local Republican Party organizations. Presumably the PACs that helped elect him will continue their support, although they may figure that having won his nomination in a safely Republican district they’re able to ignore the 19th and direct their resources elsewhere.

Most of all, Donalds has the advantage of the numbers on the ground, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats. As of this writing, in Lee County there were 202,553 registered Republicans, 129,245 Democrats, and 140,377 others including non-party affiliates (NPAs) and independents. (In Florida there is an Independent Party, so NPAs are not the same as independents.) In Collier County there are 112,044 registered Republicans, 54,380 Democrats, and 53,374 others.

The conventional wisdom is that people reflexively vote their registered party affiliation. In the past, that would be true in Southwest Florida. But now is not the past.

What’s new and different

This year, it would be unwise for anyone to blithely assume that the Republican primary is tantamount to the election in the 19th Congressional District.

There are several factors that make this an unusual year. One is the coronavirus pandemic. It continues to threaten lives, especially given the elderly population in Southwest Florida—and school-age children are at risk even as the state presses parents to send them to school. The national and state responses have been incredibly botched and even delusional. Another wave of infections may get worse. Voters have taken notice of the government response at the federal and state levels and people are frustrated, fearful and angry.

The local economy has crashed and the prospects for a quick recovery are dim. Instead, the economic effects of the botched pandemic response will continue to roll out in the days ahead, with more business closings and layoffs. With international trade disrupted by Trump administration trade wars and new border obstacles to international travel, the traditional influx of foreign visitors, snowbirds and investors is curtailed, further depressing an extremely seasonal economy built on tourism, hospitality and travel.

In the past, mail-in voting was the Republican secret sauce to winning local elections as people voted from the comfort of their second homes in the Midwest. Add to that the fact that the coronavirus has made mail-in voting essential for worried voters. In this primary election the majority of ballots were cast by mail but these were mailed out and returned before Trump and his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy attacked and disrupted the mail system. Having crippled the mails, Trump may have also crippled Republican mail-in balloting in Southwest Florida. Republicans may not be able to count on those absentee ballots to make up their majority despite the Florida state Republican party’s efforts to blur—literally—Trump’s attacks.

There is also always the possibility that natural disasters like hurricanes, red tide or algal blooms could occur in Southwest Florida but their political impacts are impossible to measure before the event.

But the single biggest political factor in the 19th Congressional District race right now is Donald Trump.

In Trump’s shadow

The 2020 election is a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump—at both the national and local levels.

As a progressive Biden Democrat, Banyai offers an alternative to the current status quo. She is now the underdog in the race and the rebel against the existing order, both locally and nationally. Her task in getting elected is difficult but relatively simple: she has to win over enough NPAs, never-Trumpers and newly disaffected Republicans to form a majority coalition along with the Democrats who will support her. (To see a more detailed discussion of this topic see the article: “Passion and Pragmatism: The Democratic path to victory.”) It does not hurt that she’s a suburban mom with school-age children who can relate directly to mothers of all ages.

But the situation is much more complex for Donalds. Although the Casey Askar campaign played up Donalds’ various apostasies—voting for Barack Obama, saying nice things about Mitt Romney, having impure non-Trumpist thoughts in the dark mists of the past—Donalds loudly and emphatically proclaimed his total, undying loyalty to Trump.

He’s now the top dog in the race and he’s joined at the hip to Trump. He and the Club for Growth Action PAC played up his absolute, unvarying ideological obedience during his primary bid. In Southwest Florida that is certainly an advantage with the committed Trumpers who decided the Republican primary—but even so he barely squeaked by.

His absolute Trumpism means that he buys the bad with the good—in addition to the credits he gets for fealty, he also stands with Trump’s lying, meanness, cruelty, indifference, narcissism, corruption, irrationality, ineptitude and, to use Trump’s own words, “hatred, prejudice and rage.”

It also means he stands with Trump policies and many of these are inimical to Southwest Florida, like destroying Social Security and trying to take away everyone’s healthcare; restricting border crossings and travel and hampering local tourism and investment; despoiling and polluting the environment; drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico; attacking immigrants and immigration, which hurts local businesses and agriculture; and excusing and justifying the sheer incompetence of Trump’s and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ coronavirus response—or perhaps better put—non-response.

Donalds has to defend and promote all this. He has no “Etch-A-Sketch” option, as one of Mitt Romney’s aides once so memorably put it. He can’t shake a toy and make all his previous statements disappear into the past and dissolve from people’s memories. Some memories are indeed short, especially among Southwest Florida’s elders, but others have memories like elephants.

Mercifully, both Banyai and Donalds say they want to conduct a clean, non-personal, dignified race that focuses on policy and Southwest Florida and appeals to our better natures. We’ll see how long that lasts, especially if the polling narrows and the PACs and consultants have their way in pushing the kind of negative campaigning and advertising that fills their coffers.

So by a sheer accident of nature, history and coincidence, sleepy, swampy, sweltering Southwest Florida this year is home to one of the most interesting congressional races in the country. It pits a totally ideologically orthodox conservative African American Trumper with a checkered personal past against a progressive Biden Democratic white suburban mom, who also happens to be a PhD and former professional prizefighter.

It would be fun to see the two of them go three rounds in a boxing ring. But short of that, we’ll have to settle for a political bout.

Voters have a stark and definitive choice. Don’t prejudge the outcome before the final bell.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Banyai wins Dem nomination in congressional race; GOP contest still undecided

Cindy Banyai

Aug. 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

With all precincts reporting, Cindy Banyai is the winner of the Democratic primary in the 19th Congressional District.

David Holden called her to concede shortly after 8 pm, Banyai told The Paradise Progressive.

“It’s such an honor to be selected as the Democratic nominee in such a year as 2020,” she said in an interview. “This shows that Southwest Floridians are craving real leadership by people ready to serve the people.”

Banyai brought in 28,731 votes or 58 percent to David Holden’s 21,192 or 42 percent, according to a WINK News tabulation that included data from both Lee and Collier counties.

Banyai celebrated with an online party and then put her three children to bed at 8:30.

In State Representative District 105, which held a Democratic primary, Maureen Porras was the winner with 63.5 percent of the vote, or 1,452 votes, to Javier Estevez who had 36.5 percent or 835 votes.

As of 9:00 pm, the winner of the Republican primary was not yet clear, with state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) leading in Collier County with 8,300 votes or 28.7 percent of the vote, according to the official count of the Collier County Elections Office, and state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) leading in Lee County with 18,772, or 25.10 percent of the votes, according to the Lee County Elections Office.

In the hotly contested state Senate District 27, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Estero) was well ahead of state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers), by a vote of 47,935 or 74.8 percent of the vote to Fitzenhagen’s 16,115 votes or 25.16 percent. The Republican winner there will face Democrat Rachel Brown.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg