- By The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
With state Rep. Bill Hager reaching his term-limit allotment of eight years as state representative for coastal District 89, four candidates are vying to claim the Republican’s seat in the Aug. 28 primary.
In the Democratic primary, Ocean Ridge Mayor James Bonfiglio, 64, is competing against Ryan Rossi, 33, a teacher turned real estate agent from Boca Raton who says he can capitalize on a surge of youthful interest in politics that he senses in the district. An admirer of John F. Kennedy, the energetic Rossi helped develop the Youth Academy League of Palm Beach County, which hopes to expand civics education for high school students.
For all that, Bonfiglio is the stronger candidate. “I know how to get along with Republicans and how to win in a Republican area,” says the two-term Ocean Ridge town commissioner. He currently serves as mayor.
“I’m a Democrat who knows how to balance a budget,” he told The Post Editorial Board. “I’m a Democrat who knows how to reduce taxes.”
Working for his town of 1,700 people, Bonfiglio says he has dealt hands-on with the impacts of sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion — and subsequent flooding. Ocean Ridge built a retention pond in 2005, but the freshwater level has since risen 2 inches. The fixes are expensive. “We need help from Tallahassee,” he said, “and we’re dealing with a government that doesn’t even recognize the words ‘climate change.’”
From knocking on doors, Bonfiglio has learned that residents are concerned about gun control, health issues like Medicaid expansion, and jobs. He would raise teachers’ salaries by taxing legalized marijuana and sports betting.
He is most passionate, though, on seeing that every child in Florida has access to two hot meals a day, a program already in place in Palm Beach County, “because you can’t teach a hungry child.”
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In the Republican primary, our endorsement goes to Matt Spritz, 35, a corporate attorney from Boca Raton in his first run for public office. Opponent Mike Caruso, 59, a Delray Beach CPA, did not respond to an invitation for an interview with the Editorial Board.
A self-described “principled conservative,” Spritz says he learned how to succeed in the Legislature by having been an aide to Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples. He says constituents want action on the opioid crisis, beach renourishment and business issues including property taxes and the commercial real estate tax.
While pro-business and pro-growth, Spritz is also concerned about sea-level rise. “I live in a coastal community,” he said. “I want to keep my home above water.”
Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.