The past two lawmaking sessions in Florida have been largely cheerless affairs, featuring bills designed to benefit big corporations, stop citizens from amending the state constitution, prevent ex-felons from voting and strip local governments of power.
David Smith, a Republican who was elected in 2018 to represent a big hunk of Seminole County, has been on the wrong side of those and too many other votes. Smith is smart, studious and principled, but we cannot recommend him for another term.
Voters in House District 28 need the alternative that Pasha Baker is offering: A commitment to start working for laws and policies designed to help the forgotten service-class workers who make up such a big part of Central Florida’s economy.
Baker, a Democrat and a Sanford native, is director and CEO of the Goldsboro West Side Community Historical Association, named for the city’s longtime African American community.
She needs seasoning, but Baker’s also bright and capable of representing the district, which includes Sanford, Winter Springs, Casselberry and Oviedo. The district also covers the county’s protected rural zone, which Seminole residents voted to implement in 2004 and fiercely defend to this day.
Baker promises to protect it from developer-friendly schemes that get hatched in Tallahassee.
Smith very nearly failed that test. He voted for a bill that might have given the proposed River Cross development a new lease on life. (Smith stubbornly insists he voted no, but he’s referring to a symbolic, after-the-fact vote change that had zero bearing on whether the bill was approved.) To his credit, Smith urged Gov. DeSantis to veto the bill, which the governor did. But Smith nevertheless continues to insist, in defiance of near unanimous opinions to the contrary, that the bill wouldn’t have affected Seminole’s rural zone.
Smith’s gone along with too many other bad ideas. He voted for an attempt to weaken the Sunshine Law by exempting university president searches from the state public records law. He voted yes on bills in 2019 and 2020 designed to thwart citizen initiatives from getting on the ballot.
He voted for a bill that all but ended the ability of most residents to challenge growth management decisions by making them responsible for everyone’s legal bills if they lose. The same bill made it virtually impossible for local governments to require that developments include affordable housing.
He’s voted for tax relief aimed at big corporations and he has an expansive view of the Legislature’s role in controlling the powers of local government.
He and Baker are on the same page on some issues, like taking drastic action to remedy Florida’s dismal unemployment system.
But the candidates' answers to one of our questions were instructive. Asked about legislation they think might help the region’s beleaguered service workers, Baker was quick to respond that the state should focus on the rights of workers, like access to paid sick leave.
Smith answered that educational opportunities are needed, and he’s right. But that does nothing for the worker who’s hired into a hotel job to replace someone who got a better job through a better education. Pressed on that point, Smith mentioned recently talking with Florida chamber officials about upcoming legislation, but he didn’t hear any ideas about helping service workers. No surprise there, since service workers aren’t exactly a chamber priority.
We think Smith has worked hard for the district, finding money for projects to help communities have cleaner water, for example.
But Florida needs representatives who are going to shake up the status quo and reorient power back toward people who don’t have any in Tallahassee, and who are suffering so grievously from the pandemic.
That’s the essential difference in this race, and why Baker is the candidate District 28 voters should select.
Election endorsements are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, which consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick, David Whitley and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell participates in interviews and deliberations. Send emails to email@example.com. Watch interviews with candidates at OrlandoSentinel.com/interviews.
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