Berman wins Democratic nomination to replace Clemens in landslide

Updated Jan 30, 2018
Lori Berman

With all precincts reporting, Florida Rep. Lori Berman scored an overwhelming victory over first-time candidate Arthur Morrison in Tuesday’s special Democratic primary for Senate District 31, according to results posted by the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

Berman, 59, will face Palm Beach County Republican Vice Chairwoman Tami Donnally of Lake Worth on April 10 in a special general election to replace former Sen. Jeff Clemens in the coastal, south-central Palm Beach County district.

“I’m very excited and proud to have the support of so many people,” Berman said from her car shortly before 10 p.m. as she drove home from her campaign office west of Boynton Beach, where she had been monitoring the election results. “I’m really honored that I do have a such a big lead and I’m happy I’ve had such good support from people in Palm Beach County.”

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Morrison, 72, said he was surprised at the small number of votes he got, but he wished Berman luck in the general election race against Donnally.

“I thought I would’ve done much better, based on what people told me,” he said. “But I have no complaints at all and I learned a lot.”

The District 31 seat has been vacant since late October when Clemens resigned after admitting to having an affair with a lobbyist. Florida Democrats filed a lawsuit aiming to get an earlier special election date so a new senator would be in place for at least part of the 2018 Legislative session, but their attempts were unsuccessful.

The seat will remain vacant for the session, which runs through March 9.

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

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After four terms in the House, Berman — who left the session in Tallahassee to spend Tuesday checking polling sites in Palm Beach County — said she has built a lot of relationships and that she understands all the issues to be an effective legislator.

As for Donnally, Berman said they are very different candidates. “I’m a big supporter of Home Rule, I think we need to give more funding to the education system,” she said. “I have a feeling we’re going to have very significant differences on how the state of Florida should be run.”

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 ballot 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.”