Replacing Clemens starts with special election primary Tuesday

Updated Jan 25, 2018
Jeff Clemens (file photo)

It’s the known versus the unknown in a special Florida Senate election Tuesday to replace Jeff Clemens, the Atlantis Democrat who resigned in October after admitting to an affair with a lobbyist.

State Rep. Lori Berman, of Lantana, squares off against Arthur Morrison, a former federal worker who has never run for elected office, for the Senate District 31 seat, which covers part of coastal Palm Beach County, including Lake Worth, Lantana, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The winner will face Palm Beach County Republican Vice Chairwoman Tami Donnally of Lake Worth in the April 10 general election. Donnally is running unchallenged.

READ: Sex scandal snuffs out Jeff Clemens’ political career

Democrats have a 46.6 to 24.1 percent registration advantage in the district and the GOP did not field a candidate there against Clemens in 2016.

Early voting is underway, part of a process that Palm Beach County Elections Supervisors Susan Bucher will cost taxpayers about $1 million.

READ: Special election to replace Clemens will cost taxpayers $1 million

Berman, a member on the powerful House Rules and Policy Committee, said she’s running because she’s been a state representative the past eight years.

“I jumped into the race because I want to continue to work on the things that have been important to me, which include access to health care for all Floridians, first rate educational system, preserving our environment, protecting women’s rights and economic prosperity for all by promoting diversity in the job market,” Berman, 59, said.

She said she has built a lot of relationships and that she understands all the issues to be an effective legislator.

Morrison, 72, did not make himself available for an interview with The Palm Beach Post.

He did, however, tell The Post’s Editorial Board that he became irritated at what President Trump was doing and decided to run after Clemens resigned.

Morrison, a county native who graduated from all-black Roosevelt High School, told the board he is determined to help poor seniors by keeping “Medicaid-to-work” issue from coming to Florida, prevent oil and gas drilling in the state’s coast and to stop charter schools from siphoning away money from traditional public schools.

Berman said the top three issues in Florida are health care, education and the environment.

She said her biggest disappointment with the legislature is that it has failed to expand Medicaid. “I will continue to advocate to do that,” she said. “I want that to be a valid initiative so the citizens in the state can vote on it.”

On education, Berman said she fully supports funding public education to make sure public students are not short changed by getting less than charter schools.

As for medical marijuana, Berman, said the legislature passed a bill last year that was more limited than she would have liked it to be. She proposes that people should be allowed to smoke marijuana. “Right now, the only means for inhaling or ingesting marijuana are through edibles and vaping,” Berman said. “We should expand it to include smoking.”

The seat will remain vacant through the regular 2018 legislative session, which runs through March 9.

District 31 is generally east of Florida’s Turnpike between Lake Worth and Delray Beach.