July 25--With her Democratic boss seeking a state Senate seat, Republican legislative aide Holly Merrill-Raschein is set to take on a familiar foe in the Aug. 14District 120 state House of Representatives primary.
Raschein, a 31-year-old Key Largo resident, will take on former Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson, 43, who's making a second consecutive bid for the House seat. He lost to six-year incumbent Rep. Ron Saunders in 2010.
Raschein has spent 10 years as the aide for Saunders and, before him, Rep. Ken Sorenson. With Saunders term-limited out and running for the Senate District 39, she said it's the right time to seek the seat herself.
Doing so could mean a huge pay cut -- House members earn just $29,687 per year -- but Raschein said she wanted to run for office in "the most unique district geographically" in the state.
McPherson said he spent most of his first campaign trying to establish Keys contacts outside his native Key West and in Miami-Dade County. Monroe's population makes up just more than half the district's population, which is roughly 133,000.
"We're going back to our basics, which is grassroots. The second time is always easier in that you've created relationships," he said.
Both candidates say one of their main issues is fighting windstorm insurance premium hikes at the hands of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state's insurer of last resort
McPherson says he brought the much-talked-about idea for a Keys-specific insurance company to County Administrator Roman Gastesi and Mayor David Rice. He said the three "went over a proposal with [United Kingdom-based brokerage house Willis Insurance] of the overall concept of the windstorm plan that I have."
In May, Saunders and members of Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe introduced the idea to then-Citizens President Tom Grady. It would mean starting a company that is essentially owned by its policyholders.
Raschein said another main issue for her is continuing to work to secure state grants for Keys sewer construction. The state Cabinet in May finalized the first $50 million of a 2009 $200 million authorization.
"Windstorm and wastewater, those are the two major issues. Otherwise, I think we need to be promoting ourselves a bit more. We bring a bunch of tax money to the state and we need a voice in Tallahassee that will represent us," she said.
McPherson said state education reform would be his other main focus if elected.
"The most important thing is that we stop putting primary focus on [standardized] tests. We need to take our kids and teachers out of the box [and] get back to a simple measuring device," he said.
The Republican primary winner will face Democrat Ian Whitney, president of the Key West Innkeepers Association, in the Nov. 6 general election. House members serve two years.
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