Editorial: Keiser short on politics, but not conservative chops

In the Aug. 28 primary, Republican voters in the sprawling Florida Senate District 25 will choose between a relative newcomer and a Tallahassee veteran.

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State Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, has been in the Florida House a total of 18 years — taking a two-year break beginning in 2009. Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of the private Keiser University, ran unsuccessfully for the Florida House in 2000.

Both are vying to replace retiring Florida Senate President Joe Negron, who has represented the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district since 2009 when he succeeded retiring Ken Pruitt — another former senate president from the Treasure Coast.

Negron announced in early May that he would leave office in November when his presidency ends rather than remain in his District 25 seat through the end of his elected term in 2020. The spurred a special election to fill the seat.

Harrell, who had already launched a 2020 campaign for Negron’s seat, switched to a 2018 campaign. Democrat Robert Levy, a physician and businessman who had also opened a 2020 campaign, did the same. The winner of the Republican primary will face him on Nov. 6.

For GOP loyalists, Keiser checks off the boxes that should earn their primary vote: pro-business; law-and-order; A-rating from the National Rifle Association.

Though she hasn’t held public office, the 59-year-old is no stranger in state GOP political circles. Most recently, she was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the boards of Enterprise Florida and Space Florida, and the 2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

“I’ve always wanted to serve in public office,” Keiser told the Post Editorial Board, “because working with others is the way to find solutions to problems.”

She said she admires Negron’s championing a multibillion-dollar reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges into the region. “But that’s just a start,” she added. “We, meaning all stakeholders in the toxic algae crisis, all need to do less talking and more doing.

“Our water quality needs to be a priority for the state,” she said. “There’ve been too many years and missed opportunities.”

Keiser said her Second Amendment support does not include so-called “bump stocks” that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like automatics. But she would have voted against the $400 million “school safety initiative” added to the omnibus education bill in the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. She said it “didn’t adequately address public safety” and raised the age to legally purchase a gun in Florida to 21 from 18 years.

Harrell did not accept an invitation to meet with the Editorial Board.


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

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