Jim Mooney in strong position to defend Democratic newcomer Adam Gentle’s HD 120 seat

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When the dust from a hostile Republican primary died down in August, the incumbent Rep. Jim Mooney won only 90 more votes than his opponent in House District 120. On November 8, voters will decide whether to keep him in power or elect the first Democratic candidate sweet adam to replace him.

HD 120 covers all of Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys and most of Everglades National Park, as well as the southernmost part of Miami-Dade County, including parts of Homestead, Air Reserve Base from Homestead and Biscayne National Park.

The district leans Republican but remains more moderate than most of its North Florida counterparts. A MCI Cards analysis showed district sided with former president donald trump by 4 percentage points in the 2020 election. Just a year prior, voters chose the Democrat Andrew Gillum on the Republican governor. Ron DeSantis.

Walk the line, sometimes

The composition of HD 120 voters largely matches the political leanings of Mooney, a lifelong Floridian and real estate adviser by trade who served as mayor and alderman of Islamorada before narrowly winning the state office in 2020. On more than one occasion, Mooney has strayed from the Florida GOP’s general party line — something his primary opponent has frequently criticized him for.

During the last full legislative session, he successfully supported abandoned boat legislation in the Keys and another bill giving more grant-making power to public-private agencies for climate change mitigation projects. sea ​​level rise.

He also sponsored a invoice enable coastal cities to create pilot programs regulating single-use plastic products. Bill died with little movement.

Environmental protection is as pervasive an issue as it is in HD 120, and any politician who ignores it does so at their peril.

The 71-year-old was one of the few Republican lawmakers to vote against the Parental Rights in Education Act limit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual preference. Mooney, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Miami in the early 1970s, explained that he was not opposed to the measure in principle, but rather objected to its vagueness, which he says could lead to prosecution.

He was also the only Republican state legislator to vote against reversing a measure implemented by Key West limit the size of cruise ships. Many HD 120 residents have openly opposed stopovers of huge cruise shipsthey complain of, dredges the seabed and disrupts marine life vital to the local environment and the livelihoods of fishermen.

In a related move, he joined six other House GOP members in voting “no” on a bill that would provide a framework for companies to sue local governments for shortfalls. The legislature eventually passed the measure, which DeSantis quickly vetoed.

In another vote, Mooney backed a Republican-backed measure criticized as favoring sugar companies over restoring the Everglades. DeSantis also vetoed this bill.

But on other issues, Mooney was in tune with his party. He supported Florida’s new abortion ban after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. He also argued that Florida’s gun regulations are tough enough and suggested the state prioritize mental health services.

On the issues

In an interview with Florida Politics, Mooney described his opponent, Gentle, as “a level-headed guy who just moved to the Florida Keys” who may not be knowledgeable enough about the issues facing the district to be effective. as a legislator.

“But he speaks very well, and I have nothing to say about him other than the fact that I met him a few times, he was a gentleman to me and vice versa,” he said.

Gentle, 41, is indeed a newer resident of Florida, having finalized the purchase of a home for himself and her husband on the island of Big Coppitt Key in Monroe less than a year and a half ago. . Prior to the move, he lived in Los Angeles. He grew up in Michigan, he said, but spent a lot of time in the Keys throughout his life.

According to Miami HeraldGentle claimed a homestead exemption — a tax break Florida homeowners get for their primary residence — not for the Big Coppitt Key home, but for another home the couple owns in Miami, outside of HD 120.

A self-proclaimed “anti-corruption lawyer” and member of the Florida barSoft originally filed in May 2021 to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart before switch to HD 120 racing in January.

It comes on a platform that prioritizes the defense of local governance and autonomy, the elimination of corruption in government, the protection of the right to vote, the restoration of the environment and safeguarding women’s health, including reproductive rights.

Those concerns should resonate with HD 120 voters, he said, regardless of political stripe.

“There are a lot of Republicans in HD 120, especially women, who think women should be in control of their own bodies. And there are a lot of Republicans in the district who know LGBTQ people, think they shouldn’t be stigmatized, and are concerned about the high suicide rate in the LGBTQ youth community,” he said.

“They don’t appreciate the fact that in Tallahassee they’re talking about this rather than talking about home insurance rates, which are through the roof and out of control.”

When he announced plans to run for office last year, Gentle cited the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol as the motivation. One of his campaign’s first video ads said he supported ‘compassionate capitalism’ and denounced Republican conspiracy theories, including that of Donald Trump unfounded lie that the election was stolen.

“These people hanging Trump flags — yes, they’re there, but I’m not worried about them, and they’re certainly not my focus. A Trump flag in front of your house is not party allegiance; it is allegiance to a man, and I would certainly never encourage our electorate or the citizens of this country to idolize any individual,” he said.

“There are politicians and there are civil servants. And to be a public servant, you have to use politics to get things done. The problem is when you lose the public service part and everything becomes political.

In addition to enacting protections for local governments and ecosystems, repealing anti-LGBTQ and restrictive abortion laws, and strengthening the right to vote, Gentle said he would like to create a “bill of rights of Tenants” to ensure legal representation for tenants facing disputes with their landlords. . Miami-Dade Commissioners adopted a similar measure in May.

Everyday Floridians are feeling increasingly pressured, Gentle explained, and new leadership is needed.

“If you come back from a legislative session in Tallahassee and you haven’t found funding for a domestic violence clinic on Marathon or for children’s health care – if you haven’t addressed the affordable housing crisis or the skyrocketing property insurance rates – I think there’s a big problem,” he said. .

Party support (or lack thereof)

Mooney beat Key Largo’s businesswoman Rhonda Rebman Lopez by 1 percentage point on August 23, obtaining 45.3% of the total vote. He also far outstripped a third Republican candidate, a house painter based in Big Pine Key. Robert Allenwho got 10.2%.

About a month before the Aug. 23 primary, Lopez received a boost from the Democratic Party, which directly funded shippers disparaging mooney on his votes against the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by his critics, and the funding he received from Disney.

Around the same time, the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee (FHRCC) paid a attack video calling Lopez a “RINO” (Republican in name only) who was “paid by Democrats”, referring to shippers.

Lopez told Florida Politics after the primary that she was “consider a libel suitagainst the FRHCC. She also questioned the legitimacy of the primary result, arguing that county election services “miraculously found” more ballots supporting Mooney.

Even before the primary, the Florida GOP was squarely behind the incumbent. And through the end of October, the party gave him $170,000 in in-kind assistance for campaign staff, counseling, telephone banking and research costs.

That’s in addition to more than $440,000 that Mooney has raised election cycle between his campaign account and his political committee, Friends of Jim Mooney. He leaves little on the table. Until October 21, he had spent all but $40,000.

Mooney heads into Election Day with House Speaker-elect endorsements Paul Rennerfuture Speaker of the House Daniel PerezRep. Garrison SamFlorida Chamber of Commerce, National Rifle Association and General Managers of Management Companiesa group that represents homeowners associations.

He also hosted a joint fundraiser with the Republican Monroe County Commissioner. Holly Raschein in May. Raschein served at HD 120 just before Mooney.

Gentle, meanwhile, beat the former congressional chief of staff Dan Horton Diaz in the Democratic primary, winning 55.6% of the vote against the least funded opponent.

It was endorsed by the Mayor of Key West Teri Johnson and LGBTQ Victory Fund. If elected, Gentle will be the eighth openly gay person to serve in the Legislative Assembly and the first to represent the Keys.

But unlike Mooney, Gentle – who has a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor from George Washington University School of Law – has enjoyed little support from his party. . Gentle’s campaign documents show he received no contributions from the Florida Democratic Party or any of its fundraising or spending arms.

That’s not the only way Gentle’s campaign finances differ. While Mooney has always relied on corporations and political organizations for donations — only a fraction of his earnings came from personal checks — Gentle’s approach to fundraising has been exclusively grassroots.

The strategy made him much less money. Through the end of October, Gentle had raised approximately $177,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Adam for Democracy.

With just over a week to go until Election Day, he had about $45,000 left.

Early voting runs until November 6.

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