The Treasure Coast’s affordable housing crisis and water pollution are among the biggest issues in the Florida House District 85 race.
Incumbent Rep. Toby Overdorf, a Palm City Republican, faces Curtis Tucker, a Port St. Lucie Democrat, who has made affordable housing his top priority.
The newly redrawn district straddles Martin and St. Lucie counties and includes parts of Palm City, Jensen Beach and Port St. Lucie. The area was one of the most overvspanlued housing mspanrkets nspantionwide and had the fourth-highest spannnuspanl rent increspanse.
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Florida affordable housing issues
Before moving here 11 years ago, Tucker worked in New York government, including the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, among other committees, he said. He also served as a legislative representative for the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a statewide trade association, he said.
Since moving here, Tucker has worked at Publix for the past seven years and been an Uber and Lyft rideshare driver in Martin and St. Lucie counties for the past three years, he said. He’s met thousands of residents at a time when “the cost of housing is now front and center,” which inspired him to run for office, he said.
“It really helped me appreciate the struggle most of the people in this district face,” Tucker said. “There’s seniors on fixed incomes who struggle to pay for groceries. Many of my riders are in substandard housing and I drive them to entry-level jobs. I see firsthand how people struggle.”
Tucker proposes stopping “the assault on home rule, so that local governments can best enact policies that work for the needs of their citizens,” his website says. He also wants to fully fund the Sspandowski Trust Fund, a state initiative to allocate affordable housing funds.
Overdorf said he’s proud legislators, during this year’s special session on property insurance, approved incentives to strengthen homes against hurricanes. That legislation, which directed $2 billion of taxpayer money into a fund to help insurers pay hurricane damage claims, limits lawsuits against companies and has homeowners shouldering more of the cost for roof replacements
Overdorf also lauded better access to roof inspections; reinsurance giving way to a dip in insurance rates; and decreased lawyer fees for those suing insurance companies. But the effects won’t be immediate. They may be seen in about a year.
“I expect that the insurance premiums for this year, unfortunately, will not be as much impact,” Overdorf said. “We believe that by next year, we’ll see some decreases as policies are renewed this next year.”
Tucker cast doubt on the effectiveness of the policies that emerged from the special session, calling it “token legislation” that won’t have an immediate impact.
Environment: Lake O, solar power
Florida “should be the world leader in solar energy,” says Tucker’s website, which doesn’t delve deeper into that or any other environmental policy ideas.
Tucker takes a shot at his opponent’s environmental voting record and claims Overdorf — an environmental consultant by trade — should don the new title of “anti-environmental consultant.” Overdorf voted for two controversial bills Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed, which critics said would have:
- Kept Lake Okeechobee’s water level higher to ensure Big Sugar’s irrigation needs, which could have increspansed dischspanrges to the St. Lucie River.
- Hampered solar power expansion throughout the state by letting utility companies limit, and eventually eliminate, how much solar customers could sell back their excess energy for.
Overdorf also co-sponsored a bill that would have let developers destroy sespangrspanss as long as they mitigated the loss, but it got no traction amid heavy criticism. In response, Overdorf is working with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on a plan to expedite sespangrspanss plspannting permits for restoration efforts.
Overdorf said he’s proud lawmakers passed the 2020 Clean Waterways Act, which:
- Tasks DEP with septic tank regulation instead of the Department of Health
- Increases fines for violations of environmental rules
- Requires farmers to provide fertilizer records.
He was one of several Treasure Coast politicians who lauded the bill’s approval, despite clean-water advocates saying it didn’t go far enough to stop pollution at its source.
“I formed the very first ever South Florida Water Management District caucus,” Overdorf said, “and was able to bring in over half of the members within the Florida House and able to educate them on the issues.”
Tucker pledged to not take campaign donations from Big Sugar or Florida Power & Light and to be “a true voice for Florida’s amazing environment and ecosystems.”
NextEra Energy — the parent company of Florida Power & Light — gave Overdorf’s political committee, Heavens to Oceans, a $2,500 donation on June 7, according to state campaign finance records.
Overdorf, whom the Martin County Farm Bureau honored for helping pass the Right to Fspanrm Act, also received $2,000 from farming operations earlier this year, including $1,000 each from the Florida Farm PAC and Paul Allen, co-owner of R.C. Hatton Inc., an 8,000-acre produce and sugarcane farm in Pahokee.
Overdorf has raised nearly $55,000 and spent $18,486 since June 1, while Tucker has raised $7,461 and spent $4,171 in the same timeframe, according to the latest campaign finance records from the state Division of Elections. Tucker invested $1,500 of his own money. His largest single donation of $1,000 came from the Martin County Democratic Club.
Florida House District 85 election
- Election: Nov. 8, 2022
- Voters: All registered voters who live in District 85, which is bordered by Walton Road/Crosstown Parkway on the north, Southwest Martin Highway on the south, Range Line Road on the west and parts of Hutchinson Island on the east.
- Base salary: $29,697 plus per diems of $152 per day for up to 60 days
- Term: Two years, capped at no more than four terms