Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to replace Goodman in state House run against Hagerby Dara Kam | July 27th, 2012
Palm Beach County Democrats will pick former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to run for state House District 89 race incumbent against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County Democratic party leader Mark Alan Siegel.
Gustafson, who represented Broward County in the House for more than a decade, will replace Pamela Goodman, who ended her campaign earlier this week because of her husband’s health problems.
The county Democratic Party executive committee will meet on Tuesday to officially make the selection, Siegel said.
Gustafson, a Wellington resident and the godfather of Tri-Rail, currently does not live in the Palm Beach County coastal district but said he’s had his Wellington house on the market for six months and had planned to move to the Boca Raton area before deciding to join the race.
Gustafson, 62, was elected to the Florida House in 1976 and served as speaker from 1988-1990 when Democrats controlled the legislature. His resume includes lengthy stints as a politician, lawyer and academic. Gustafson now serves as the director of research programs in the Finance and Administration Department at Florida International University but is retiring Tuesday, he said.
Gustafson specializes in community planning and transportation issues and was instrumental in the creation of Tri-Rail, which serves Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Gustafson said he wants to bring his multi-disciplinary expertise to Tallahassee again to help make the state a better place to live.
“The issues don’t change very much. They get updated. Things become more important one year than the next. But the rhythm stays the same,” Gustafson said. “The parties come and go in terms of who’s the majority. It changed before. It will change again. What is important is we have a state that needs attention. Politics is in the details. If you can work through the details with a focus and, in my case experience not only in politics but in the practice of law and academia, you can come up with good answers. And that’s what I hope to do.”
Democrats have targeted the District 89 race as one of their state priorities and were disappointed by the departure of Goodman, a former vice-president of the Florida League of Women Voters who had nearly universal support within the county.
Gustafson has been out of office for more than two decades and never represented Palm Beach County. Democratic operatives predicted Gustafson, who’s lived in Wellington for a decade but is well-known throughout the state, will be able to tap into resources far beyond the county to help fund the race against Hager, who has collected more than $100,000 for his reelection.
“I don’t think anyone except political aficionados will remember him but remember campaigns are about sharing and providing information,” Siegel said. “This is somebody who’s ready to hit the ground running.”