Miller Looks to Close in District 72

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY OCT 27, 2016

Alex Miller was preparing for a re-election bid to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board this year before the race for state House in District 72 became an open contest. Suddenly, she was thrust into one of the most competitive elections in Florida. The Republican today seems in an enviable position to win against an opponent who no longer has party support, but Miller is leaving nothing to chance. In an email exchange with SRQ, she defended her platform.

Positioned as a moderate, she both opposed right-wing efforts to stop a Medicaid expansion in Florida and to privatize public hospitals, but stands with Republicans on issues like school choice. The hospital issue, of course, remains close to her heart after four years on the hospital board. “The conversation about privatizing hospitals is nothing new—for-profit entities have been pushing to privatize hospital systems for years—and it will likely continue for years to come,” she says, but with strong performance at SMH verified by state audits, she doubts that will be a pressing matter. She is more concerned that Low Income Pool funding this year was cut from $1 billion to about $618 million last year and next year will be phased out entirely. “This is a paramount issue facing our state,” she says.

On the education front, she has supported the expansion of school choice and says greater competition will be what drives excellence in schools. “Students in public charter schools have consistently outperformed their counterparts on standardized tests in almost every subject and at every grade level,” she says. But she quibbled with some accountability measures in place. Miller says she wants to ensure local control of schools by “repealing Common Core” and “eliminating high-stakes testing.”

While her opponent, Democrat Ed James III, has critiqued state spending in terms of funding a constitutional amendment regarding purchase of public lands, Miller finds the legislature’s actions defensible based on the language of the voter directive. But the real issue, she suggests, is that the Legislature is forced to interpret such ballot measures rather than being able to legislate in chamber. “Frankly, the question exemplifies why Floridians should use extreme caution and restraint in choosing whether to amend the Florida Constitution. Our state constitution, like its federal counterpart, is a sacred document, which should be rarely amended,” she says.

Her race with James looks significantly different than it did a month ago. James has seen the Florida and Sarasota Democratic Party withdraw support after news surfaced that a woman accused him of sexual assault in June. While the woman did not pursue charges and James maintains his encounter with her was consensual, the news led to widespread condemnation. Miller feels voters should take the accusations seriously. “They completely disqualify him from representing our community in Tallahassee,” she says, while praising Democratic leaders for withdrawing support.

She most wants to continue the fiscally conservative direction of the Legislature under Gov. Rick Scott, who she noted has reduced taxes by $1 billion in the last two years without any budget shortfalls. She’d like to see more cuts, including a 6 percent corporate rent tax reducation.

Miller runs against James in District 72. The general election is scheduled for November 8.

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