Column: Formula to measure Dem zeal for “public option”; potential Richmond challenger; Thomas’ optionsby George Bennett | August 30th, 2009
Call it the Klein-Craft Axiom: In Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, Democratic enthusiasm for a government-run public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers is inversely proportional to the percentage of Republicans in one’s congressional district.Liberal U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, and Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, are vocal cheerleaders for the “public option” that is a centerpiece of the health care overhaul pushed by House Democratic leaders.
Wexler and Hastings represent slam-dunk Democratic districts.
But in nearby Palm Beach-Broward District 22, which has slightly more Republican voters than Dems, U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, approached the topic cautiously in a “telephone town hall” with constituents last week.
But he stopped short of embracing it.
“I’m still looking at it. I haven’t committed to it yet,” Klein said of the public option. And as for the entire 10-year, $1 trillion House plan, Klein said he has problems with the price tag and described himself as “not quite there yet on saying I’m supporting the bill.”Striking a similarly cautious tone is Democrat Chris Craft, the St. Lucie County commissioner drafted by national Dems to try to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, in Republican-leaning congressional District 16.
The public option, says Craft, “is an option that’s on the table. I’m not 100 percent sold on it.”
* * *Marcia Andrews, a former teacher and principal and school district administrator, is considering a run for the school board seat of veteran incumbent Sandra Richmond.
School board seats are nonpartisan. But here’s what makes Andrews’ potential bid interesting: she’s a member of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s executive board. And Richmond, elected six times since 1988, is one of the county’s longest-serving Democratic elected officials.Party leaders traditionally discourage challenges of incumbents from within the party. County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel says he’s not backing Andrews, but hasn’t discouraged her, either, because “I don’t know if Sandi’s running again.”
Richmond says she’ll “probably” seek reelection next year.
* * *Cedrick Thomas, who lost to Mack Bernard in last week’s special state House election, has to give up his Riviera Beach council seat Sept. 22 because he ran for the House.
But he doesn’t rule out seeking reappointment by the council.Thomas is also weighing a 2010 challenge of Bernard or taking on County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who was a key Bernard backer.