For the first time since 2008, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey has a challenger in the Republican primary.
There are many valid reasons why an long-time incumbent like Posey deserves to the challenged: He’s been in D.C. for 12 years and there’s a case to be made that District 8 needs new blood, an energetic person who’s ready to rise through the ranks of GOP leadership to amass enough power to truly effect change for his constituents.
Posey’s opponent Scott Caine of Vero Beach has the conservative credentials that someday will make him a formidable candidate for Congress — perhaps when Posey retires, as it’s rumored every election year. He had a 30-year career in the Air Force, where he was vice commander of the 9th Air Force, and has said his priority is to take on China.
However, Caine fails to make the case that voters should exchange Posey — someone who’s been an advocate for our two biggest local issues, the Indian River Lagoon and space and has done a good job serving Brevard residents — for someone new.
For those reasons, our Editorial Board recommends Posey in the Aug. 18 primary. The winner will face Democrat Jim Kennedy in the Nov. 3 general election. The three candidates participated in a forum last week organized by FLORIDA TODAY, Eastern Florida State College and the League of Women Voters of the Space Coast. Kennedy was not considered for this recommendation because he’s not running in the primary. The district covers Brevard and Indian River counties and a small part of Orange.
The biggest obstacle for a candidate who challenges an incumbent of the same party is showing voters what sets them apart when their stances on issues are very similar. Candidates who did so effectively, for example during the Tea Party wave, were able to prove incumbents weren’t living up the conservative values of the GOP or the needs of their districts.
Caine has signed a term limit pledge and points out Posey has not lived up to past statements in support of such limits. Posey co-sponsored a failed 2010 amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have prohibited a House member from serving more than six consecutive terms (12 years), which he completes this year.
But beyond the fact Posey has been in Congress for a long time, there’s no reason to vote him out.
He reflects the values of local GOP voters — a staunch conservative and supporter of President Trump. He founded the House Estuary Caucus and has successfully fought to keep the National Estuary Program funded. He also co-sponsored 2018 legislation that reauthorized important research programs to fight toxic algae blooms.
To Caine’s credit, we can see how, given his experience in the Air Force, he could quickly emerge as a strong voice on foreign policy issues, particularly on China. If elected, the main goal of his first two-year term would be to pass legislation to rebuild American manufacturing with a focus on 5G telecommunication technology, which the Chinese are poised to dominate.
“Because if don’t, then we are going to fall behind China with all our friends and allies across the planet and they will be connected to China instead of connected to the United States,” he said.
On the topic of the lagoon, Caine said during the forum the federal government should make it easier for the state to address the issue — “That goes into getting federal government out of state business,” he said. While conservatives elsewhere would like to see that, we believe District 8 voters expect more from their Congress member.
Posey is quick to point out to his work to keep the Estuary Program funded.
Beyond that, it seems Caine and Posey agree on a lot.
On the most pressing topic of our time, COVID-19 and congressional response, Posey and Caine are in agreement for the most part. Both said the $600-per-week in unemployment benefits approved in the CARES Act provides incentives for people to stay home instead of looking for work. The benefits expire in July.
Caine called the benefits a “necessary evil” and that he’s “not a fan” of adding such “extra incentive.”
Posey left the door open to re-evaluate how much unemployment benefits should be — if any. We like that he’s open-minded as we’ve heard firsthand from Brevard County residents struggling to get access to unemployment benefits.
When asked about what he’s done for disenfranchised communities, Posey mentioned his work while he was in the Florida Legislature getting dollars to help build the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex in Mims honoring the civil rights activists assassinated in 1951, and passing a 2013 bill to rename the post office on Florida Avenue in Cocoa after them. Posey also passed legislation to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the Borinqueneers, an all-Puerto Rican segregated unit that served in World War I and II and the Korean War.
We appreciate Posey’s efforts but it’s also worth pointing out he became nationally known for his link to “birther” theories, which questioned whether the nation’s first Black president was born in the U.S., when he filed a 2009 bill to require presidential candidates present a copy of their birth certificate. Posey at the time insisted it wasn’t aimed at Barack Obama but his legislation gave oxygen to a racially charged and widely debunked conspiracy theory.
In all, our Editorial Board believes Caine has the military and foreign policy background that generally make excellent candidates for Congress. But defeating a six-term incumbent is no easy task, especially when you can’t prove why he should be booted.
We hope Caine continues to run in future elections. But for now, Republican voters should give Posey another shot.