Editorial: Baer, Mast best choices in their respective party primaries

Updated Aug 08, 2018
  • By The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
Post endorsements for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 18: Rep. Brian Mast (GOP) and Lauren Baer (Dem).

The race for Florida’s District 18 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is one of the most closely watched in the country.

It could be said that all of this national attention is because the district — which encompasses northern Palm Beach County and Martin and St. Lucie counties — is considered one of the most important “swing” seats in arguably the most important “swing” state. But you could just as easily ascribe this attention to the fact that it is a “see-saw” district that shows very little loyalty to any one party.

As a result, both the Democratic and Republican parties have targeted the district for millions of dollars in spending to win in November’s midterm elections. But first there is the matter of the Aug. 28 primary, and deciding who would best represent the parties in the general.

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The Democrats have a choice between two smart, tough-minded candidates. Both are motivated by what they’ve seen transpire in Washington, D.C. — especially over the past 18 months. And they both want to change what they call a troubling trajectory for our democracy.

The Post Editorial Board endorses Lauren Baer, 37, in the Democratic primary over former U.S. Navy JAG officer and NextEra attorney Pamela Keith. To be sure, Keith, 49, is a firebrand who would no doubt be willing to go toe-to-toe with Republicans in Congress to push a national agenda of progressive ideals. But while that is laudable, all politics are indeed local and voters in U.S. House District 18 must be sure their issues will come first.

That is less of concern with Baer, who also speaks passionately about the “damage being done to our country’s democratic foundation” and the concern that raises for her 20-month-old daughter. But as someone who was raised in the district, Baer is careful to tie any national issue — such as health care — directly to the residents living there. For example, she notes the roughly 74,000 district residents who would have lost access to affordable health care had the Republicans been successful in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Baer, a consultant with the Albright Stonebridge Group who spent six years as a U.S. State Department advisor in the Obama administration, also knows the value of compromise and laments how partisan divisiveness has stalled meaningful legislation in Congress.

“We’ve got to be willing to fight,“ she told the Editorial Board, “but we’ve also got to be willing to sit down at the table. Voters here know that Washington needs for that to happen to accomplish anything.”

For example, she said more could have been done to prevent the toxic algae blooms plaguing the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries if there was less finger-pointing and more cooperation between state water managers and environmental officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In the Republican primary race, the Post endorses U.S. Rep. Brian Mast. The first-term congressman is being challenged by real estate investor Dave Cummings and physician Mark Freeman. Freeman, 69, didn’t interview with the Post Editorial Board. This is the 37-year-old Cummings’ first time running for office, and protecting gun rights is his top priority.

Cummings uses the issue to bash Mast for the congressman’s support of a ban on military-style assault weapons in the wake of the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 people, including 14 students. Mast, a U.S. Army veteran who lost both lower legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, makes no apologies for his support of a ban, nor should he.

“I voted my district, not my party,” he told the Editorial Board, while citing former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments in the 2008 Heller decision.

On the algae issue, Mast said he plans to bring disparate groups together again by Aug. 18 to discuss how the federal and state governments can work better on the issue of algae-filled discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

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Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.