Babis wants Empowerment for Disabled

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY SEP 13, 2018

Editor's Note: Part 1 of 2.

Faith Olivia Babis says she just wants the opportunity to debate her opponent in the state Senate District 23 race. But to date, the Democrat hasn’t had a chance to share a stage with Republican Joe Gruters. “I am the only legislative candidate that has not had access to a nonpartisan candidate forum,” she says.

For Gruters’ part, he says he’s prepared to debate with her at any point. “I’m willing to debate whenever and wherever she wants, pending that my schedule allows it,” he says.  But so far, the candidates got left out of a recent Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Associations event, and a Tiger Bay forum got cancelled. 

It’s especially troubling for Babis, who raised $26,000 through August compared to Gruters’ war chest of $266,000. But she’s continuing to spread her message forward of better treatment for disabled Floridians. Babis, a congenital double amputee born without arms, cares deeply about this, particularly in granting the disabled dignity and opportunity to be working members of society. She works as a peer mentor at the Suncoast Center for Independent Living helping people with physical disabilities find jobs and take advantage of government services. 

“Think of Stephen Hawking, who functioned using only one muscle in his teeth,” she says. “Without care, the smartest man on the planet, without the use of his computer, would have been stuck in a nursing home.”

Babis’ biggest issue is the recent combination of “medicaid waiver” lists at the state level. Until the most recent budget bill, Florida had five lists to handle different types of patients, but now boasts just two. Everyone from brain trauma patients to adults with Cystic Fibrosis or HIV wait on the same list with nearly 52,000 patients. “That’s when we had 6,500 people die in 2016 waiting for services,” she says.

Gruters says that sounds like a side effect from an intended efficiency. Should he be elected, he wants to learn more about the issue. “Just having Faith run in this race, it’s already raised the issue of disability rights,” Gruters says. “She’s done a good job of pushing that agenda, certainly one that can’t be ignored. I’m more than willing to sit down with her.”

The election for state Senate District 23 is set for Nov. 6.

Photo courtesy Babis campaign

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