(SS) As the only Republican state legislator in deep-blue Broward, Rep. Chip LaMarca of Lighthouse Point walks a delicate line, balancing a middle-of-the-road constituency with his party’s increasingly extreme agenda in Tallahassee.
On issues such as abortion, free speech, home rule, immigration and voting, the MAGA Republicans who run the Legislature are hopelessly outside the mainstream. Far too often in the past two years, LaMarca voted with them, despite his claims to the contrary.
His campaign literature says he puts “people over partisan politics,” but his votes tell a different story. That’s the main reason we recommend his challenger, Democrat Linda Thompson Gonzalez of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
LaMarca calls himself a “pro-life Catholic.” He voted for a 15-week abortion ban (HB 5) with no exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking of crime victims. In a district that crosses eight cities, he voted to let businesses sue cities and counties, and soak their taxpayers, if ordinances reduce business profits (SB 620). It was a brutal attack on home rule that Gov. Ron DeSantis wisely vetoed.
He voted against academic freedom by weakening tenure protections for professors (SB 7044), making university presidential searches largely secret (SB 520) and disallowing public protests outside residential sites such as the Governor’s Mansion (HB 1571). He voted for a bill, originally drafted by Florida Power & Light, to limit rooftop solar energy (HB 741), which was so hostile to consumers that DeSantis vetoed it. The list goes on.
“Folks know I consistently buck leadership when I need to, and buck my own party when I need to,” LaMarca said in a videotaped Sun Sentinel interview.
To study LaMarca’s voting record, you would think he represented Panama City, not Pompano Beach. His vote against HB 1557, the so-called “don’t say gay” law, does little to mitigate this.
LaMarca, 54, a former Broward County commissioner and Lighthouse Point city official, is personable, accessible and knowledgeable and emphasizes his work on Port Everglades and protecting Broward’s beachfront. But a good-guy image cannot obscure an extreme voting record that is out of step with this purple district.
On abortion, he said he preferred a ban at 20 weeks, but House leaders presented members with a 15-week ban subject to a yes-or-no vote.
A closely divided district
The redesigned and renumbered House District 100 is largely white, affluent, coastal and east of U.S. 1, roughly from Port Everglades north to the Palm Beach County line. By the numbers, this may be the most closely divided House district in the state. As of Oct. 1, county records show, the district had 45,955 Republican voters and 45,533 Democrats. The remaining 42,778 voters are NPAs with no party affiliation or members of a minor party.
Republicans did their best to create a winnable district for LaMarca as he seeks a third two-year term.
Thompson Gonzalez, 73, is a lawyer and retired U.S. diplomat who worked for more than 30 years as a State Department foreign service officer in Latin America and as an assistant inspector general searching for corruption in the agency.
Endorsed by the Sierra Club, the pro-choice Ruth’s List and Equality Florida, a leading LGBTQ group, Thompson Gonzalez told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board: “Women’s lives are really not safe when a government mandate puts our most personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians.” If elected, she would be one of the few women officeholders in northeast Broward, where all the mayors are men.
Thompson Gonzalez said she would have voted against the bills listed above that LaMarca supported. She criticized him for his show of support at the county courthouse Aug. 18, when DeSantis announced voter fraud charges against 20 people, with a phalanx of 18 armed sheriff’s deputies lined up behind them. LaMarca defended his decision to take a stand for election integrity.
LaMarca can’t be taken lightly and he’s a strong fundraiser. Through Sept. 9, he reported raising $341,883, including more than $70,000 from the House Republicans’ fundraising arm or the state Republican Party.
Thompson Gonzalez reported $54,978, including $5,000 of her own money.
It’s a rematch
This race is a rematch. Thompson Gonzalez ran against LaMarca two years ago and lost, 55% to 45%. This newspaper endorsed LaMarca then, and argued that he could be a bridge to Republicans and that 265,000 Broward Republicans deserved a voice in Tallahassee.
But that voice has become part of a divisive right-wing chorus. DeSantis’ cheering section in the state Capitol is big enough. For Florida House District 100, the Sun Sentinel recommends Linda Thompson Gonzalez.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its staff members. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.
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