Members of the TCPalm and FLORIDA TODAY editorial staff talk issues with U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) and his opponent in the District 8 election Sanjay Patel (D-Satellite Beach). Rob Landers and Hannah Schwab, Florida Today
RACE: U.S. House District 8
TERM: 2 years
KEY ISSUES: Indian River Lagoon, leadership and experience, safeguarding taxpayer money, transportation and infrastructure
RECOMMENDATION: Bill Posey
When asked to name the most important issue to Indian River County residents, the candidates in U.S. House District 8 agreed on two.
Bill Posey, 70, R-Rockledge, seeking his sixth term, and Sanjay Patel, 41, D-Satellite Beach, cited the economy and Indian River Lagoon.
In their interview with our editorial board, Patel went on the attack, claiming the incumbent was out of touch with the massive income gap between rich and poor, the low wages and lack of health care in his district.
Posey countered by saying the economy had improved dramatically, noting how some businesses, such as Piper Aircraft, are having a tough time finding qualified employees.
The unemployment rate in Indian River County was 4.9 percent in August, down from about 10 percent when Posey took office. In 2017, United Way of Florida reported Posey’s Congressional District had the sixth-lowest poverty rate among 27 in the state. The report said the district had the state’s lowest percentage of adults living paycheck to paycheck.
There’s always room for improvement, but it’s not fair to put all the blame on Posey, the GOP or any other political party.
On the lagoon, Patel, a former project management consultant who moved to the district in 2008, deserves credit for learning about the causes of pollution and what ails the estuary near Lake Okeechobee. He also worked on a campaign that got Brevard County voters to pass an optional sales tax to fund lagoon projects.
Posey, though, has been working on projects small and large as a citizen and legislator in the state and U.S. capitols for decades.
In some ways, Posey, who served 10 years on Rockledge City Council and 18 in the Florida House or Senate, may be out of touch with some constituents in his community.
Health care is, in fact, a problem for residents without insurance and others who pay too much for coverage. Posey minimizes the scope of this. But Patel’s remedy is dramatic. He proposes Medicare for everyone, using savings from existing spending. Posey sees that as a $4 trillion folly.
Part of Posey’s disconnect is his lack of in-person town hall meetings, such as those run by his peer to the south, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.
Posey, however, has been a leader on space issues. His home county weathered what could have been a devastating economic downturn when NASA missions were curtailed.
He has been a strong supporter for Indian River County residents’ safety in opposition to the Brightline passenger rail project. The concerns do not appear to be on Patel’s radar.
And while Posey has shown he can cross the political aisle occasionally, Patel’s “People Over Politics” slogan glosses over his own deep involvement in his party.
For two years Patel has lived off investments and retirement funds, he said, to help grow the Democratic Party in Brevard County, which his wife chairs. She ran unsuccessfully in 2017 to be statewide party chair. The couple in 2016 were Bernie Sanders’ delegates at the Democratic National Convention.
Just how willing would Patel be to work with Republicans in our nation’s capitol or represent the interests of the many conservative voters in Indian River County?
Unfortunately, we heard nothing concrete from either candidate about how they would unite Americans. Posey, a conservative, has a mixed track record.
Patel is a sharp newcomer and, based on his background, a potential problem solver. But we know Posey. While not perfect, he’s the best choice for House District 8.
TCPalm’s candidate recommendations are decided collectively by its editorial board. Recommendations are based on nonpartisan criteria that prioritize the best candidates for our local community.