State Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) had some strong words for her Democratic election opponent Dan Horton when it came to the suggestion that she doesn’t support environmental cleanup.
“I stand behind bringing fresh water to Florida Bay,” Raschein said during a forum Monday in Key West. “I’m not going to be intimidated or bullied into signing a piece of paper.”
Horton once again challenged her to sign the Now Or Neverglades Declaration, which includes a demand to restore fresh water to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.
“Holly hasn’t signed it, I hope she joins me soon,” Horton said.
Raschein said she was taught by her political mentors not to sign pledges or petitions, period.
This was only one contentious match-up during the 2.5-hour candidates forum Monday hosted by the nonprofit Hometown at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St., in advance of the Nov. 8 election. Four media members questioned the candidates.
The evening included the ongoing Keys fight over whether the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will release genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the Zika virus and other diseases, argued Monday in part by a representative from the Oxitec company that makes the biotech bugs, and Ed Russo, a GM mosquito opponent who recently wrote a self-published book, “Donald J. Trump: Environmental Hero.”
But candidates had some of the sharpest barbs of the night.
“People went to jail because of him,” U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Republican who represents the Keys, said of his Democratic opponent Joe Garcia, referring to recent scandal with a campaign manager. “Google it. With that reputation, it is very difficult to get anything done for your community in Congress.”
Garcia was the Keys congressman for one term before losing to Curbelo two years ago.
Garcia said Curbelo voted against the regulation of “toxic ash” and voted in favor of a law that would force women who are raped to wait 48 hours before getting the procedure.
While Curbelo again said he won’t vote for either the Republican or Democrat presidential candidate, Garcia said Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to run for the White House in his lifetime.
Meanwhile, independent candidate Jose Peixoto wore a red pro-Trump ball cap and called the Affordable Care Act “a disaster.”
Gun ownership is at risk, said Peixoto, who imagined out loud someone entering the auditorium with an “AK-47” not knowing people there were armed. He added Garcia and Curbelo will “change” the Second Amendment.
During the state attorney candidates’ time on the stage, Dennis Ward, the Republican (then Democrat) ousted in 2013 by Democrat Catherine Vogel, said Vogel’s administration suffers from “downright laziness” and “ineffective leadership.”
Vogel countered she cannot convene a grand jury investigation — as a full-page ad in a Sunday newspaper paid by a committee critical of Lower Keys Medical Center urged her to — without first having evidence of a crime.
“I have led this office, I vow to try my cases in the courtroom and not in the press,” Vogel said, adding she has 30 years of experience in prosecution.
In that race, Shad Neiss, the Libertarian candidate and political newcomer, drew laughter from the crowd of at least 200 when he said, “This is my first time running for office, just trying to hang in there.”
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen