Boca Candidate Forum Features Congressional, State Senate, County Commission and School Board
At a table that spanned the width of the West Boca branch library meeting room, a good mix of candidates showed up to answer questions posed by moderator David DiCrescenzo. The candidates were sent a questionaire in advance of the event, and those and additional questions were posed appropriate to the type of seat sought. (See Candidate’s Position on Issues for the written responsess that were returned).
Congressional candidates participating were David Wagie and Paul Spain who will face each other and Andrea McGee in the August 26 CD22 Republican Primary for the seat currently held by Democrat Lois Frankel. For the county commission we had Democrat Paulette Burdick (who has won her district 2 seat by default but chose to participate for the constituent feedback), and Republican Steven Abrams who will face Democrat Andrew O’Brien in November. School board district 3 incumbent Karen Brill and challengers David Mech and John Hartman filled out the table, and we were joined briefly by Senate 34 incumbent Maria Sachs who in November will face the winner of the Republican primary between Ellyn Bogdanoff and Joseph Bensmihen (neither of who showed up).
Clockwise from top left: Paul Spain, David Wagie, Steven Abrams, Paulette Burdick, Maria Sachs, Karen Brill, John Hartman, David Mech, moderator David DiCrescenzo.
Starting the questions with immigration, both Spain and Wagie gave the expected response for tough enforcement of the border. Senator Sachs on the other hand, who pointed out that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, stressed assimilation – that new immigrants should learn the language, learn civics, and forge cultural homogeniety. This was a popular answer for the mostly conservative crowd, and Democrat Sachs may have won some votes with this appearance. Before stepping out to another engagement, she invited all to visit her Boca office. “I am a STATE senator, she said, and when someone calls they get a hearing, regardless of what district they are in or to which party they belong.”
In other areas, the congressional pair had some interesting answers. Paul Spain is in favor of a federal budget freeze, combined with a 10% reduction in federal employees and a 5% pay cut. Favoring the posibility of a flat or fair tax, David Wagie would do away with the IRS, while Paul Spain would only cut it in half.
At the county commission level, Paulette Burdick went against the grain a little, speaking in support of Seven/50 – the sustainable development plan that many in PBCTP have argued against at commission meetings. It is a body of research that is a resource on which to draw – why should we reject available data? Both Burdick and Abrams told of their actions to hold down county spending, with Paulette pointing to her opposition to the out of control Sheriff’s budget and Steven listing the sales tax proposals he has opposed.
The School board candidates were a study in contrasts. Although these races are non-partisan, Republican Hartman makes no secret of his conservatism, and David Mech trumpets his in-your-face libertarianism. Mech, a small business owner whose background in the adult film industry is an interesting beginning on which to launch a school board bid, begged off on some of the questions, admitting he has not had time to research them. Hartman, whose major policy position is based on opposition to common core, saw many issues as black and white. Brill, with the advantage of 4 years in the job, had an understandably nuanced view. On Common Core, she said “that train has left the station” (referring to the standards themselves) as it has been in the implementation stage for several years. But we now have the ability to influence the assessment and the curriculum, she said, and that should be where the focus is. Hartman wants to roll back the program, as if the school board had that power. Mech said he supports Common Core.
On School choice, Brill supports the “full choice” proposal also supported by district 1 member Mike Murgio, which would let any student in the district choose the school they want to attend (subject to available space). Hartman supports choice outside of the district schools (ie. charters), but would look carefully at them for educational values beyond their business basis. Mech opposes school choice, believing it should be “all or nothing” – if we are going to have public schools, then money should not go to alternatives.
The district 4 candidates (who would represent parts of the south county area) did not participate.