The division between two of the three candidates in the race for Florida Senate District 16 became clear today at a campaign stop in Clearwater. The three senate contenders are all currently state representatives, and trio appeared at a lunch meeting of the Tiger Bay club. Roxanne Escobales reports.

ACT: It’s time to non renew the politicians that sided with the insurance companies instead of with you

That was Florida senate hopeful Charlie Justice addressing a meeting of the Tiger Bay club today at the Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater. Justice is the lone Democrat running for the District 16 seat. He was joined by Kim Berfield and Frank Farkas, the two Republicans who will be duking it out for their party’s nomination in the G-O-P primary this September.

At first glance, the candidates share many similarities. All three attended St. Petersburg College. And all three currently serve in the Florida House. This fact was not lost on the audience and was highlighted with a question from the floor:

ACT: term limits repealed?

The three answers from the candidates were not so different – all had voted against repealing term limits. And again all spoke out against the Supreme Court’s eminent domain ruling that allows municipalities to take over homes and businesses for private development.

But that’s where the similarities ended. Republican Kim Berfield and Democrat Charlie Justice, both from Pinellas County, provided the starkest contrast. Republican Frank Farkas, who has served the longest time in office, wobbled somewhere in the middle between them.

When asked about whether or not local government should get involved with regulating where and how media companies place big billboards, Kim Berfield sided with big business.

ACT: I believe in private property rights… should step back from

Farkas, Berfield’s competition for the Republican nomination, presented a softer, gentler side of conservatism – a moderate side that seeks to please all.

ACT: “ a compromise… try to do a fair job between private property rights and wishes of municipalities�

On the side of the spectrum, Justice, a firm Democrat, wants to see local citizens organizations empowered.

ACT: I have sided with local organizations and groups… over big billboard companies

The other galvanizing issue was Terri Schiavo. Lying In a coma for years, Schiavo was taken off life support over a year ago yet still haunts the Florida legislature, which attempted to pass emergency laws that would force doctors to keep Schiavo alive.

One Tiger Bay member singled out Berfield to press her on her efforts to pass that legislation. A gentleman said he was “perplexed� that Berfield would uphold private property rights, yet feel it was ok for the legislature to intervene into private family matters.

Berfield took a religious approach.

ACT: I am not God. I am humbled… hard decision to make.

In his closing statements Justice made a point of revisiting the Schiavo issue, which happened at a time of personal tragedy for him as his mother passed away in a hospice. He wrote an article against government intervention in family affairs which was published in both the St Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune.


Frank Farkas steered clear of the controversial subject and instead offered platitudes for his closing remarks:

ACT: a mighty oak was once a little nut in the ground.

Farkas will find out whether Republicans view him as a little nut or a might oak during the G-O-P primary on September 5th, when he’s pitted against the decidedly conservative Berfield. Whoever wins the nomination for Republican candidate for Florida Senate District 16 faces a Democrat named Justice in November.

For WMNF, I’m Roxanne Escobales.

comments powered by Disqus