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Benacquisto, challenger, to face off in closed primary

By Staff | Aug 10, 2016

By CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

It will be a battle between a battle-tested incumbent and an environmentally conscious newcomer from Sanibel.

Lizbeth Benacquisto will look to hold onto her State Senate seat in the newly configured 27th Senate district, but she will first have to dispatch Jason Maughan in a closed Republican primary on Aug. 30.

The winner will face write-in candidate Dakota Austin Eads on Nov. 8.

Lizbeth Benacquisto, incumbent

Age: 48

Occupation: corporate development

Residence: Fort Myers

Incumbent State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto has earned the respect of her constituents and fellow senators. Since coming into office in 2010 she has been elected majority leader in 2012, ran for Congress in 2014, and has been named a possible candidate for lieutenant governor.

Benacquisto said she wants to continue to make a difference for Southwest Florida by speaking up for those she serves, building bridges across the aisle to get the job done.

“I want to fight for the things we see as priorities, with a focus on education, children and conservative values,” Benacquisto said. “I’m a good voice for the community, we work hard to make sure when we make decisions, we’re doing it with the best interests of my neighbors in mind.”

Benacquisto said she wants to create a friendly business environment in the state and continue to slash state taxes, as well as keeping kids safer and the education system moving in the right direction, with an emphasis on colleges and universities.

Among the bills she’s helped pass include one clearing the backlog of 13,000 untested rape kits and a bill that requires life insurance companies to notify beneficiaries when their customers pass away, putting more than $500 million in Florida residents’ pockets.

As far as water issues, Benacquisto said state residents passed Amendment 1, which will put $200 million into restoring the Everglades this year ($4 billion over 20 years), and has helped fund $66 million in short-term local water projects.

Jason Maughan

Age: 45

Occupation: attorney

Residence: Sanibel

Jason Maughan, who was born and raised in Ireland, has never run for office but he has served as one of the region’s foremost lawyers and businessmen, as well as an activist for the environment.

He said he ran because of what he calls the inaction by public officials about water quality and pollution.

“I’m concerned of the future for my son and of the business community of Lee County. I bring honesty, integrity and a clear mission to bring clean water and conservative values to Tallahassee,” Maughan said.

Maughan is against illegal immigration and in support of securing the borders, believes the Constitution itself is absolute and that Common Core should be removed from the schools.

“I have zero tolerance as a legal immigrant for illegal immigrants insulting our country. I waited in the rain for my green card and it took years,” Maughan said. “I demand the federal government support building a wall and fixing illegal immigration for the good of all people.”

But his main issue, and in many respects the only issue as everything in Southwest Florida comes because of it, is the water.

“It’s the only issue of immediacy because the legislature is being paid not to address it,” Maughan said. “Removing special interests and professional politicians and replacing them with community leaders with a reputation for fair play is the solution.”

Maughan believes the state should do everything in its power to bring the water south, using Amendment 1 money to make it happen.

If elected, Maughan said he would seek action from the state on day one to restore the Everglades and send the water south.

Maughan also said he thought the water issue could lead to a public health issue, and because of inaction, the issue has come home to roost.

“There’s a 36 percent increase in children’s cancer. It’s a horror,” Maughan said. “We have to do something now. We have a two-year-old Constitutional amendment that instructs the legislature to acquire land in the Everglades Agricultural Area.”

“We have to prioritize the projects and complete the projects that need to be completed, but the state has made a significant commitment,” Benacquisto said. “The current schedule calls for the planning to begin in 2020. “We need to move up the planning process because we know the water has to go south.”