Conservation Part of Robinson Legacy



Editor’s Note: Part 2 of 2

Saving the environment for future generations means more to Will Robinson than a campaign slogan. The real estate attorney’s surname landed on the the Robinson Preserve, a 487-park in Manatee County made up largely of land donated by his family for conservation. And should he win a seat in the Florida Legislature, he’d like to see the state properly investing in more property. “We should be funding dollars to preserve environmental lands,” he says. “Hopefully we can agree on preserving our most precious resources.”

But it could take more than a family history in conservation to ensure Robinson has a say this year. He’s now the Republican candidate in state House District 71, running against Democrat Tracy Pratt, another Bradenton attorney. The seat for the past eight years was represented by state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who is retiring because of term limits.

Robinson entered the race early, filing in February 2017, and he proved a solid contender early. He initially faced a primary challenge from James Buchanan, who later decided instead to run in a special election in District 72 then lost. Buchanan decided next to run in District 74 rather than re-entering the fray with Robinson.

That’s no shock. Robinson raised more than $272,000 over the course of his candidacy, including about $26,000 in early September alone. By comparison, Pratt raised more than $41,000 since entering the race in March. Pratt also chipped in $20,000 of her own money; Robinson put in $90,000 out of pocket.

Pratt, for her part, has also painted herself an environmental champion, chastising the Republican Legislature for failing to fund conservation as required by Amendment 1. “The environment has been my No. 1 priority since before red tide hit the region,” Pratt says. “We lack the infrastructure to address issues related to sea level rise and climate change.”

But the candidates differ on other policies, such as education. Pratt expresses frustration at decisions by the Legislation to require more funding go toward charter schools while lawmakers dabble with increasing voucher spending at the expense of public school systems. "School choice has decimate dour school system," she said. While she supported limited public charter schools, she says directed funds away from schools has starved districts around the state.

Robinson, a product of local schools, says parents deserve choices. “We should invest in public schools but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also invest in nontraditional schools like charter schools or even other types of institutions,” he says. “We should give parents and students maximum choices.” That could include private school vouchers, he says. The top priority should be transparency in the schools, though he noted  “We have gotten too out of control with a lot of the standards.” 

As for school security, the two express similar unease with the expansive bill passed after the Parkland shooting in February, but for different reasons. Robinson likes the funding provided for public health but thinks raising the age limit for rifle purchases leans into young adults’ Second Amendment Rights. Pratt was happy to see some gun restrictions included, but dislikes the guardian program that could allow more staff to keep firearms on campus. Neither, though, can say how they would have voted on the bill, and both hope if they had been involved in crafting the legislation it might have been closer to their liking.

Robinson and Pratt face off in the Nov. 6 general election, open to all voters registered in District 71, which includes parts of Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Photo courtesy Robinson campaign: Will Robinson addresses a crowd in an area pavilion.

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