It appears the addiction Florida Democrats have to the cash resources and other promises made by the sugar industry continues. In House District 85, a Democratic-leaning, Republican-held seat in Palm Beach County, many influential Democrats both locally and on the state-level are taking a pass on the race.
The district was carried by President Obama in both 2008 and 2012 as well as by Democratic Gubernatorial nominees in 2010 and 2014. It’s long been a likely seat to flip and now is open as well-liked State Representative Pat Rooney (R-Palm Beach Gardens) is retiring from the legislature. A prime pickup opportunity for the Democrats perhaps is being squandered quite possibly out of loyalty to the sugar industry.
Democratic candidate Robert Simeone has a moderate profile and fits the district well. In the November 8 General Election he will face off with farmer Rick Roth, the GOP nominee. Roth echoes the usual right-wing talking points about business stating on his website:
“Rick Roth has the can-do pro-business attitude and know-how to cut through the Tallahassee bureaucracy and put our shared free enterprise, limited government principles into action.”
What makes Roth unique is that despite claiming to be a political outsider (which might be true) he is a sugar farmer. Since the opportunity to get someone tied to the industry into the State House is now possible, big sugar is backing Roth 100%, and as usual influencing the political climate around this race and the state as a whole.
Check out Roth’s stands on environmental issues including fracking and Amendment 1 (2014):
Financial contributions to the Florida Democratic Party from sugar-related entities and PACs since the August 30, 2016 primary are in the neighborhood of $120k. Several influential consultants in the world of Democratic politics in Tallahassee also have strong ties to the sugar industry and unlike most agro-business, sugar has a long history of playing both on sides of the aisle in legislative races even after Democrats became by-and-large irrelevant in the legislative process.
Particularly successful, sugar has been in impacting Democratic House and Senate primaries over the course of the last decade and finding loyal Democrats to the cause. While many of these same Democrats talk a good game and vote correctly on most environmental issues, when it comes to Everglades cleanup, restoration and water issues they tend to dance around the topic of sugar or avoid it altogether.
Irrespective of views regarding Simeone, the distance many Democratic leaders both statewide and locally are taking from this race smells like a sugar-influenced decision.
We will continue to track this race and sugar’s playing on the Democratic side this cycle between now and election day.