Temple Beth El of Boca Raton hosted a candidate forum Tuesday. Numerous candidates appeared and answered questions, including all in the above photo and more. The author of this article was on the committee that set up the forum, planned the questions, and also served on the panel that asked the questions.
Election Day is this coming Tuesday, the 4th. Early voting is still on from 7 am through 7 pm through Sunday, at the West Boca branch library on 441.
The last two candidates on the agenda were the ones asked about an issue on the minds of many in West Boca. West Boca News has been pressing incumbent County Commissioner Steven Abrams (R) about his position on panhandlers on our intersections, and he has been ducking us. He continued to avoid it on Tuesday. His position is that he needs to talk to the firefighters and the PBA first. Those groups also use the intersections to solicit contributions.
Abrams’ challenger, Andy O’Brien (D) was far more clear. He supports adopting the same approach used by the City of Boca Raton. Although we find him a little kooky in talking about global warming at the county level, his solid answer on panhandling merits our endorsement.
Another hot race that covers part of West Boca is congressional district 22, includes some of West Boca and all of East Boca. Republican Paul Spain and incumbent Democrat Lois Frankel both were there. Asked about immigration, Frankel gave a short but vague answer. Spain’s answer didn’t make sense to my ears, saying we need to count the illegal aliens who are here.
On spending Spain said we should spend less but had no answer on where he’d cut. Frankel said it’s not a question of more or less (that was the question) and that she’d eliminate tax cuts to oil companies and others.
Both were also asked about using US troops to combat ISIS in foreign countries. Both were unclear in their answers. Frankel said it should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Spain said we should only go in if we’re determined to win.
The highlight of their time on the stage was in their closings. Spain said that our relations with Israel have gotten so bad that the Obama administration is not talking with the Israeli government. Frankel disagreed and the audience applauded her.
Speaking only for myself and not for West Boca News’ co-founder, Spain seems the better choice here but not by much. He started with an old tired Republican cliche – that he’s a businessman rather than a professional politician. And I’d have liked him better if he’d spell out some specific cuts. But at least he says he’d cut spending, where Frankel appears to be happy with spending gone wild in Washington. As for the Israel point, he’s a lot more accurate than Frankel, per the liberal Atlantic. It amazes this author that anyone who is strongly pro-Israel could support the Obama administration’s handling of the situation.
State Senate District 34 covers all of Boca east of the Turnpike. Ellen Bogdanoff (R) gave the most awkward opening statement I’ve ever seen, telling the audience she was uncomfortable and almost didn’t come because she feels she’s judged unfairly by the Jewish community. In the middle of an overall poor performance she gave the best answer of the night when asked about expanding Medicaid. She encouraged the audience to ask their doctors about it and asserted that many doctors are retiring – I’ve heard similar comments made by a number of doctor friends. Incumbent Senator Maria Sachs (D) was a stark contrast. She was so smooth it seemed unnatural. She repeatedly mentioned a couple of “accomplishments” that did not impress me, especially something about bringing a program to FAU from Technion University in Israel.
Based on Bogdanoff’s Medicaid answer I would have endorsed her. However, her erratic performance sapped my confidence in her. Hostile audiences are the best audiences to meet – you can’t lose their votes. She should know better. West Boca News makes no endorsement in the race.
Another hot race involves incumbent Republican Bill Hager against Democrat David Silvers for State House east of Military Trail. I’ve met Hager a few times but never felt a personal connection. By contrast I met Silvers for the first time that night and found him warm and personable.
Hager impressed me a lot more with his answers. On Common Core Hager gave a straight answer that he opposes it along with much of the testing and favors local control. Hager served on a school board in the past. Silvers also said he opposes Common Core but was unclear what alternative he supports.
Both were asked about the “Competitive Workforce Act.” Hager said he’s a co-sponsor of it and Silvers supports it. There didn’t seem to be much of a difference between them on this. If I were choosing who I wanted to have a beer with it’d be Silvers. But in choosing who to serve in the State House, I endorse Bill Hager in this race.
For the rest of the races we’ll take them in the order they came on the agenda. First up was Carl Domino, a Republican in a contested race with Congressman Patrick Murphy. Their district is well north of here with the southern part of it in West Palm Beach. Domino presented himself reasonably well, but gave a classic establishment Republican non-answer when asked where he would cut spending.
Next was Alcee Hastings, the incumbent Democrat from District 20, which does not include West Boca but includes areas near it:
Hastings is a great speaker with a powerful voice and a sharp mind. He was also interesting. In contrast to the official Obama administration position, Hastings said that there are US special forces troops on the ground in Syria right now. He’s also one of the rare politicians to give a solid answer on where he would cut spending, saying he would reduce US military involvement overseas.
Congressman Ted Deutch (D) appeared alone. We previously reported that he’s unopposed but there is a write-in campaign and the man behind it is Mike Trout. Trout was not invited to the forum because at the time we were deciding whom to invite, we did not know he was running. District 21 includes most of West Boca. Everything west of the Turnpike is in the district. East of the Turnpike and north of Clint Moore the district runs to Military Trail. South of Palmetto Park Road it extends to Powerline and then south of SW 18th it goes to Military Trail.
Deutch was very popular with the audience. He did not give a straight answer on where he’d cut spending or where he’d raise taxes, other than to say he opposes across-the-board cuts. He was also vague on balancing the fight against terrorism with protecting individual rights. On one issue he and most of the candidates were clear – he stands firmly with Israel.
In the statewide CFO race Democrat Will Rankin showed up, while incumbent Jeff Atwater (R) did not. Atwater has a lot of local ties and his absence was disappointing. Rankin seemed competent and gave reasonable answers to the questions. He raised good points about rising insurance rates and the handling of the state’s public pension system. In part because Atwater was a no-show and also because he’s announced his interest in leaving the position to become President of FAU, West Boca News endorses Rankin.
Republican challenger for State House Stuart Mears showed up but the incumbent, Mark Pafford, did not. Their district (86) is well north of us starting in Wellington. Regarding education and testing he gave a pretty good answer about using testing to measure student growth. On spending and revenue his answer was unclear.
Incumbent Lori Berman (D) serves in House District 90 and she’s running unopposed. She was well received and made some wonderful comments about “high risk testing.”