Big Bucks in Liz Benacquisto, Kevin Rader SD 27 Fight
Around the State
Republican nominee Lizbeth Benacquisto, a former Wellington council member and vice mayor, beat out two opponents in a primary. She now faces state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, in the general election. Rader defeated Fort Myers lawyer Pete Burkert in the primary.
At stake is the seat of Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who abandoned the seat to make a failed bid for the Democratic Florida attorney general nomination. The seat is important because it could decide whether the Republicans can attain a veto-proof majority in the Senate. The GOP currently has a 26-14 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, just under the two-thirds majority needed to override gubernatorial vetoes.
“The right word is balance. This seat will determine whether there will be any balance in Tallahassee,” Rader said.
Given the seat‘s importance, it’s no surprise that money is flowing into both sides. Both campaigns, though, are spending it fast. Benacquisto has raised significant cash -- nearly $456,000 -- and spent $354,000, according to the latest records from the Florida Department of Elections. Rader has raised $328,000 but spent $241,000.
The district expands from Democratic stronghold Palm Beach County across rural Glades, Hendry and Charlotte counties to Republican stalwart Lee County. Typically, Republican candidates have hailed from Lee, but Benacquisto beat her Gulf Coast counterparts in the primary. She says her residence in Palm Beach County may give her a leg up over previous Republican challengers, but that she is trying to build up support across the district.
“All I can speak to is how important the seat is for the constituents in the district. I’ve just been focused on winning a strong base in every county,” Benacquisto said.
Rader is pooh-poohing reports of a Republican wave in the midterm elections and polls that show an “enthusiasm gap” between frustrated Democrats and eager Republicans.
“I think you’re going to see a great Democratic turnout on Election Day,” he said.
The race took another turn earlier this week when an ethics complaint was filed against Rader for not including his seven percent stake in Advanced Insurance Underwriters on financial disclosure forms in 2008 and 2009. Rader has accused Benacquisto of being behind the complaint, but her campaign has stated she knew nothing about it.
On the issues, the candidates are polar opposites but they agree that the economy and jobs are the district’s top priorities. On just how to turn the economy around and combat rampant unemployment, they give classically partisan arguments.
Rader would like to see greater investment in public works a la the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s and wants to see Florida ports made ready to accept large cargo ships that will flow after the Panama Canal is widened in 2014. He also criticized Republican legislators for raiding the transportation trust fund last year in order to balance the budget.
“It would create a boon in that area,” Rader said of attracting cargo ships. “That is the goal, to try to get businesses to open up,” he added.
Benacquisto thinks unnecessary regulation and excessive taxes are preventing job creation.
“We need to foster an environment that will help capital to flow. We cannot add any additional burdens on our businesses and families,” Benacquisto said.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859