Equality Central in District 74 Primary



Manny Lopez thought at multiple times this election season he couldn’t actually run for office. At one point, he told fellow Democrat Jerry Nicastro. But when qualification was done with, both Lopez and Nicastro found themselves vying for the same seat in the state House. And while the two men share a political philosophy, this indecision created a schism creating tension in state House District 74. “I’m a straight shooter,” Nicastro says. “If he said ‘I’m thinking about dropping out but I might get back in,’ I would have a lot of respect for the man. But when you flat out lie to me, I have problems with that.” For Lopez’ part, he understands the frustration, but feels his years of experience, including being elected to a school board in Texas, make him the superior candidate. “This was not done with any malice,” Lopez says.

Lopez, a disabled veteran, feared he would lose his pension by pulling a legislator’s salary. He has since learned he can elect not to pull a salary, and will not do should he be elected. His focus, though, is on issues like expanding Medicaid in Florida and restoring upward mobility for citizens in the state. And he feels the electorate is hungry for equality. “There is a shift taking place politically across the country,” he says. “It’s slower in Florida, but it’s happening.” And officials in Tallahassee need to be investing in infrastructure and in education, creating opportunities for the college-bound and workforce ready alike. The Gulf Coast, he said, needs fiberoptic cable providing the communication foundation needed to create high-tech jobs in this region.

For Nicastro, it was social equality issues that drew him into the race. Unhappy with incumbent state Rep. Julio Gonzalez’s support for so-called religious freedom laws. “There were bills passed that seemed more to do with a form of discrimination,” Nicastro says. “I don’t feel anybody has a right to discriminate based on race, religion or anything.” A process server in the 12th and 20th judicial circuits and an ordained minister with the United Church, he feels frustrated that Florida has fought to limit rights like hospital visitation for same-sex couples. He also promises that the people he will listen to regarding policy are those living in the districts, not lobbyists in Tallahassee

Nicastro and Lopez face off in the Democratic Party in District 74, which includes most of South Sarasota County, on Aug. 30. The winner will challenge incumbent state Rep. Gonzalez, R-Venice, in the November general election.

Pictured: Jerry Nicastro, Manny Lopez

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