ADAM WOOD / NEWS TEAM
In our District (9!), we have two candidates for the Lower House of the Florida Legislature – Jim MesserR and Loranne AusleyD. Loranne Ausley is a strong progressive, all for environmental protection and the common worker. Advocating a pay raise for state employees and working class citizens through a higher minimum wage and strongly supports environmental regulations in the face of a largely Republican led state government that denies climate change. She is as true blue as Democrats come and is an experienced public servant. Opposite is Jim Messer, a moderate Republican all about bridging the deep, partisan divide in the Florida legislator and fighting for the interests of Leon county. In a Q&A with the Tallahassee Democrat, featuring his opponent, Messer commented: “I don’t know when compromise became a dirty word in politics.” With Trump presiding over a deeply fractured Republican base and Marco Rubio’s deep conservative roots – many would appreciate Messer’s willingness to listen and learn from the average voter.
On economics, the two differ on a partisan basis as to whether there should be a $15/hour minimum wage. Loranne Ausley agrees and would fight for the live-able wage, a policy largely aligned with the Pro-Bernie affiliation of many college-aged voters. On the other hand, Jim Messer argues in the pro-market fashion that everything boils down to job opportunities. In his words, “poverty is not a lack of money but a lack of opportunity, a lack of hope”, Messer maintains that if elected he would lobby the legislature for more investment in the county. Both support pay raises for state workers.
With regards to the environment, Ausley supports a “culture of conservation” and is firmly opposed to Rick Scott’s climate change denial syndrome. Messer, while acknowledging our needs for environmental regulation, believes that there must be a balance between the needs of mother earth and Florida businesses.
Though many would consider Messer’s stances to be atypical of a Pro-Business Republican, he is quite able to surprise the average, label-intensive down ticket voter. Deviating from conventional conservatism, Messer tepidly favors Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, a measure meant to ‘plug’ the gap between those covered by Medicaid and those eligible for Obamacare’s healthcare subsidies. However, he maintains that Florida should be “legislatively flexible enough to find other options if those dollars dry up.” While this is near unanimous common wisdom amongst those of the Liberal camp, such as Ausley, such is a bold move for a Republican.
On the abortion question, Ausley’s voting record puts her firmly in the pro-choice camp. She also supports “banning the use of racial profiling by law enforcement.” She is also supporter of hate crime legislation, criminalizing attacks made with regards to sexual orientation and gender. So far, Jim Messer has not made his stances clear with regards to women’s reproductive health and LGBT+ rights, however he has dubbed himself a social moderate, boldly stating that it is not impossible to be both “pro-black and pro-police”.
The two are practicing lawyers – there is no doubt that both are familiar with Florida law and its intricacies. Loranne Ausley, however, possesses greater experience in the legislature having represented the district from 2000 to 2008. On being a representative, she has said “[it’s] not about passing bills, it’s about being the conscience for the issues that are important to this community, standing up and being that voice and making bad bills better and moving issues along through the process the best way.” While she also makes appeals for bi-partisanship and a working relationship with those on the other side of the aisle, Messer has raised the point that as a member of the Republican majority he would be better able to bring home the bacon to Leon county. Furthermore, he goes on to say that “Ms. Ausley says a lot of wonderful things but is not going to get a lot done sitting in the back of the House of Representatives with the super minority.” In today’s highly polarized and vitriolic political atmosphere, it is nice to see that both candidates are level-headed and attentive to the needs of the average citizen.