THE FLORIDA SENATE
The Florida Senate is the upper house of the legislature of the state of Florida. Along with the House of Representatives it comprises the Florida Legislature. After census, draw congressional and legislative districts. The Florida Constitution establishes the legislature’s powers and duties that include passing laws, developing annual state budget and making investigations.
4-year term; term limits 8 years. 40 Senate seats.
All candidates were asked the following questions:
- BACKGROUND: Why are you running for this office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?
- GUN VIOLENCE: Do you believe the Second Amendment leaves room for limits on gun rights? What protections do you favor? Your view on background checks and loopholes?
- EDUCATION: Do you favor current student performance and school and teacher measurement and evaluation? How can Florida best improve outcomes?
- ENVIRONMENT: How do you propose to protect our water supply, Biscayne Bay, the Everglades National Park? Please specify.
SENATE DISTRICT 36
Rene Garcia (REP)
Candidate did not respond
Anabella Grohoski Peralta (DEM)
- Candidate did not respond
SENATE DISTRICT 37
Mercedes Christian (NPA)
Candidate did not respond
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (REP)
Committed civic leaders work for the common good. I have already served the public as a leader, and not as a politician. Our citizens care about the community and need visionary, ethical and principled leaders who can effectively get things accomplished. That has been my record for over 20 years of public service. It is why I proudly run for reelection.
As to my skills, I would highlight two: First, I am one of the few public officials who rises above rank partisanship to accomplish the mandates of the electorate. We are not elected to fight each other. We are elected to fight for an agenda that works for the citizens. I know how to work well with others. Second, many political leaders have no sense of how to get things done and passed in the Capitol. They often mistake rhetoric as a substitute for results. I believe results count.
As Chairman of the Florida Senate's Judiciary Committee, I single handedly stopped the open carry and campus carry bills which passed the Florida House of Representatives easily. I stood for common sense gun laws at great expense, as those who disagree with me pushed back hard. I never wavered. As to the three questions, the answers are straightforward: yes, yes and yes.
Our public schools need to be successful and properly supported. Obsession with over testing, mandated curriculums, and disempowering classroom teachers will not work. We need to support teachers and great public schools. Our teachers deserve compensation that is commensurate with their level of responsibility. We need to increase teachers' salaries. We also have the right to hold public schools accountable using fair, effective, and jointly designed criteria. We see this happening more and more at MDCPS as we respect our school district's autonomy and as we listen to teachers,support staff, parents, the community, and students. It's not a blame game, but rather a partnership for the future of our children and adult students. Genuine collegiality and joint responsibility lead to improved outcomes.
I live here too. It is shocking when leaders ignore the environment and play politics with science. Political leadership and conviction is needed to protect the environment . Overall the state's environmental record must be improved. Specially, we need to reverse the ERC's recent vote and increase water quality standards. We need to strengthen our laws to make polluters ever more responsible for their damage. We need to fully fund Amendment 1. Lastly, there needs to be full implementation of CERP.
Jose Javier Rodriguez (DEM)
By voting Jose Javier Rodriguez on Nov. 8th, District 37 voters can expect me to continue working hard every day for them. After serving in the US Peace Corps in West Africa and earning a degree from Harvard Law School in 2006, I turned down the big law firms and came back home to Miami to work in the community defending the rights of those who cannot afford lawyers.
In 2012, I was elected to District 112 in the Florida House to represent residents of the City of Miami, City of Coral Gables and Village of Key Biscayne and currently serve as the Vice-Chair of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation. District 112 forms the center of, and is completely within the boundary of, the newly-created Senate District 37.
For the last four years I have had the honor of representing my neighbors and constituents in the State House. In that time I stayed close to residents, working on issues in the district; labored hard to successfully advance policy in Tallahassee benefitting us; and battled powerful interests to protect us from bad policy.
The State Senate is a much bigger platform to continue that work advocating on behalf of my constituents. It is also a unique opportunity to serve in a brand new state Senate seat created by the Fair Districts process.
The rights granted individuals by the Second Amendment leave room for reasonable limitations. I have been an advocate for gun safety laws during my entire legislative career and have been instrumental in helping to halt ill-advised policies that would have made local law enforcement’s job more difficult here at home. I do favor a reasonable assault weapons ban, reasonable limitations on suspected terrorists purchasing firearms and universal background checks.
My opponent, Diaz de la Portilla, has a long history of supporting gun policies that make our communities less safe. As a County Commissioner, in 2000 he voted against a commonsense ordinance that required all guns stored on county property to be equipped with child safety locks. In the Legislature, Diaz de la Portilla voted for HB 45 in 2011, preempting any locally passed gun ordinances. The same year he also supported the so-called “Docs & Glocks” bill, prohibiting doctors from discussing proper gun safety procedures with their patients. This year he voted for SB 344 which, if passed, would have shifted the burden to the prosecution to disprove a Stand Your Ground defense; and then when many of us voted to convene a special session to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the Pulse night club tragedy, Diaz de la Portilla did not support it.
Florida suffers from an overemphasis on measurement and testing. I have and will continue to work toward reforms that make sure we are focused on supporting students, schools and teachers that need help the most rather than penalize them; and make sure we are measuring the right things for the right reasons rather than testing for testing’s sake.
The Florida Constitution tasks the Legislature with making “adequate provision” for education and I believe the Legislature fails in that regard. I have been at the forefront in the House in the last four years to reprioritize education in our state funding, a critical component to making sure we are able to support the students, schools and teachers that need the Legislature to do their part. On the other hand, my opponent, Diaz de la Portilla, supported and voted for Governor Scott's $1.3 billion education cut in 2011.
Effective advocates for their constituents need to know how and when to fight hard when it's needed; but also know how and when it's time to dig in, compromise, build consensus and get things done. I am passionate about water and environmental policy, areas that happen to be a good example of balancing those two approaches.
First, on the failure to implement Amendment 1, I was among the most vocal. Second, on bad water policy that will hurt our state for decades to come, I was not just among the most vocal but was out on my own as one of only two in the entire Legislature to actively and publicly push back. Finally, I have been out front, virtually alone among my legislative colleagues, in holding Florida Power and Light accountable for failures at Turkey Point that threaten South Florida ecosystems and our drinking water.
With respect to Everglades restoration, I have been vocal in advocating for the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee to be able to send water south. On probably the only positive piece of legislation favoring Everglades restoration in recent years, the Legacy Florida Bill, I worked closely with Republican colleagues on its passage as their only Democrat collaborator for most of the bill's journey.
SENATE DISTRICT 38
Phillip J. Brutus (NPA)
- Candidate did not respond
Daphne Campbell (DEM)
- Candidate did not respond
SENATE DISTRICT 39
Anitere Flores (REP)
As a lifelong resident, wife and mother, and someone who grew up in South Florida, I want to continue to be an advocate for the people of District 39. Some of the most rewarding aspects of my time in the Florida Legislature for the past 12 years have been being able to protect funding for Jackson Memorial Hospital, fighting for lower property insurance costs, being a champion for the environment by preserving the Everglades and opposing fracking, and ensuring that Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade College, and FIU receive the funding they need. While I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish during my time in the legislature, I am not done fighting for my community.
As the only Republican in the senate to vote for a special session in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre, I know that we must have a serious conversation on gun safety. One of the most important aspects is to improve the communication between state and federal departments to avoid incidents like Orlando and others where an individual who had been questioned multiple times by federal authorities still had access to a gun because state officials were not informed. Our state and nation, can and must, find a balance between the second amendment and ensuring that criminals and others suspected of dangerous activities do not have access to weapons.
In response to concern over imposing a national curriculum for local students, Florida adopted state specific standards and has given local counties flexibility in implementation. I am proud that Miami-Dade County's students continue to excel academically. I continue to support increased funding for our public schools, and have been a champion for Miami-Dade County Public Schools in sponsoring and passing the district’s priority legislation that provides them with flexibility and increased funding.
I stand with Senate President Negron’s announcement that the state needs to prioritize the funding necessary to restore Lake Okeechobee. I am committed to continuing to work closely with environmental experts to figure out a solution that will protect and preserve the Everglades. I have been a vocal and consistent voice to stop fracking in our state. I led the Senate investigation into the seepage from the cooling canal system surrounding Turkey Point, which led to FPL’s agreement to stop the leakage as well as retract the saltwater plume created. I also passed the Florida Keys Stewardship Act which provides funding for Florida Bay, as well as was a leading voice for the passage of the Legacy Florida Act which provides $200 million per year for Everglades restoration. This is just a snapshot of my record on the environment, and I look forward continuing it in the next session.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (DEM)
I am a proud Hispanic immigrant and mother. I have lived in Miami for twenty years, and have spent those years improving our community by providing development assistance for non-profits – raising money for public higher education, to broaden access to healthcare, and preserve our environment, among other causes. Much of this time was spent working at FIU, where I served as an associate dean of advancement.
I am running for Senate District 39 to fight for a Florida where public education is a genuine priority, where the rights of women are respected and protected, and where preserving our environment is more than a campaign slogan.
When I was in my twenties, my father was killed by a criminal with a gun. Because of this, I am strongly in favor of expanding background checks by closing gun show/private sale loopholes. I support a ban on assault weapons, as well as limiting firearms purchases for those on the “no-fly list”. I believe that we can respect the Second Amendment, while also preventing guns from landing in the wrong hands.
While I appreciate the utility of standardized tests, I do not favor the rampant over-testing of our students, nor the emphasis on high-stakes tests in broader student and teacher outcomes. I believe that Florida’s public education system would benefit tremendously from improved funding. Our legislature should stop funneling tax-payer dollars into unaccountable charter schools that can abruptly close their doors and abandon struggling students in their wake. Florida’s legislature should better prioritize high-quality public education system for all Floridians.
I believe that a first step toward protecting Florida’s water supply would be the proper implementation of 2014’s Amendment 1, as voters intended. The state must purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee and redirect its water southward. This will restore the flow of clean water to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys, all of which are in Senate District 39. We must also hold FPL accountable for the pollution of our ground water at Turkey Point nuclear plant. And, of course, we must acknowledge that climate change exists and prepare for the threat of sea level rise on our communities. Drinking water is essential to life, and it is unacceptable that our legislature has put the needs of special interests over protecting our precious natural resources and communities.
SENATE DISTRICT 40
Frank Artiles (REP)
- Candidate did not respond
Dwight Bullard (DEM)
I have had the honor of serving in the Florida Senate now for the last four years. Prior to that I served in the Florida House from 2008-2012. In my time of elected service I've noticed that the process has been void of elected leaders willing to call out injustices when they're present. Being bold as a voice for the marginalized has been a position I've relished during my time in office and it is my hope that others will show the courage to step up in a real way and join me moving forward.
I definitely believe the 2nd Amendment leaves room for limitations. I support a repeal of the state limitations on local government as it pertains to the 2nd Amendment. I support and have proposed a repeal of "Stand Your Ground". I support stricter background checks on everyone and restrictions on those that have histories of severe mental illness or records of violent outbursts. I also support the closing of the gun show loopholes as well as the banning of guns in schools, on campuses and in public buildings. I also support a return of the national ban on assault weapons.
It does a disservice to the great work that teachers do, to connect their livelihood to a test that does not capture the scope of their work. It is also equally problematic that students should have their pathway to graduation hindered by any high stakes test let alone several over their matriculation. Lastly we have set our schools back by arbitrarily grading them based on a farce of an accountability system and the unabated expansion of charter schools and voucher programs. I would allow teachers to teach and provide a supportive learning environment for students that includes art, music and support services like nursing and counseling onsite.
I would propose electing a Governor in 2018 that cares more about our environment than filling the pockets of his corporate cronies. I support proper use of the Amendment 1 dollars for purchase of the lands south of Lake Okeechobee and immediate clean-up of the blue-green algae blooms as well as the red blooms. I fully support and look to sponsor a statewide ban on fracking as well continuing to support a ban on offshore drilling in Florida.