Voters throw cold water on ‘Buy the Land’ candidates in primaries

everglades (Large)

It is often said that “elections have consequences,” and for those engaged in the political struggle to convince voters to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee, these consequences will soon seem all too real. Among the biggest losers in Tuesday’s primary were candidates who signed the “NowOrNeverGlades” declaration to buy land from Florida sugarcane growers.

Whether Republican or Democrat or at the state, local or federal level, candidates in South and Southwest Florida that tied themselves to environmental activists pushing for buying farmland came up short. This summer, water thick with toxic, blue-green algae spilled onto the shores of the Treasure Coast. Environmental activists seized upon the crisis in a renewed push to blame sugarcane farmers. On Tuesday, in the minds of voters, none of it seemed to matter.

In federal races, losing candidates included South Florida’s Tim Canova, who tried unsuccessfully to tie incumbent opponent Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to the sugar industry. Congressional District 18 candidate Rebecca Negron made buying the land a focal point of a television ad in the later weeks of the campaign against disabled veteran Brian Mast, who won convincingly. In Southwest Florida, former Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney cruised to victory over Chauncey Goss in a bid to replace outgoing Congressman Curt Clawson, a supporter of buying land himself. Goss was among the candidates to sign the activists’ pledge to purchase the land. Others losing candidates supportive of the petition included Dr. Mark Freeman (CD 18) and Annette Taddeo (CD 26).

At the state level, #NowOrNeverglades petition signer Jason Maughan lost a bid challenging incumbent state Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto. Other petition signers on the losing end were Augie Ribeiro (SD 19), Jason Pizzo (SD 38), Andrew Watt (HD 85), and Tinu Pena (HD 86).

Locally, Lee County Commission candidate Dick Anderson also came up short, as did Martin County Commission candidate Donna Melzer on the Treasure Coast. So did Martin County Republican challenger and “buy the land” supporter Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, as did incumbent Anne Scott in their county commission bids.

Other losers in this debate are the Treasure Coast Newspapers, which have gone all in for buying land. This summer, the Stuart News editor Eve Samples walked the beaches of Martin County urging residents to sign petitions to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee. The petitions were then delivered to Gov. Rick Scott’s office by her colleague and fellow opinion writer Gil Smart. Apparently, voters on the Treasure Coast were unfazed by the paper’s activism masquerading as journalism.

Big winners are political teams for U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, who have a knack for picking the right horses on both sides of the aisle. As noted before, this success isn’t winning them any favor with the Miami Herald, but in the halls of the U.S. Capitol and the Florida Legislature, it’s good to be king.

Last updated on September 2, 2016

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Lamont Eason

    August 31, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Looks like environmentalist bullying strategy was rejected by the voters so maybe there’s a chance now for Florida to support/continue the construction of reservoirs north of Lake Okeechobee, to treat the water before it flows into the rivers and canals. This is what I always thought was a sensible approach.
    Treat the water before it flows into the rivers and canals. And it would work. Buying land south of the lake is a political move being promoted by groups such as Bullsugar. It would waste money that could be used to fund projects under the CERP that would clean and store water on the east and west areas of the lake.

    • cyndi

      August 31, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      the algae bloom did not start north of the lake. it started in pahokee.

    • cyndi

      August 31, 2016 at 11:30 pm

      You guys crack me up. we were poisened. I had to wear a mask at my house. the reservoir was being built and then it was stopped. don’t believe me believe joe negron. The incoming senate president. are you calling him a bully?

    • cyndi

      August 31, 2016 at 11:34 pm

      lamont the resevoir was being built and it was always part of the plan. the algae bloom started in pahokee. don’t buy the land. turn off the locks. if you guys don’t want it. but don’t send it to us. we tried to be inclusive but big sugar propaganda and people like peter here like it when people are fighting.wharever. but our senator and senate president joe negron wants this. will peter be against him to? i doubt that.

  • cyndi

    August 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    acutally brian mast did a huge water commerical so your not quite right and he sign the now of neverglades declaration. It must be good to be you to get all the sugar money paola and pretend that what you write is meaningful when it just a paid commercial. Jacqui’s loss had to do with a 18 year old closing an election as write in. Prob paid off by her opponent. It’s ok. They just need to close the locks and then all you people think it’s ok to poison us can fight about for the next fifty years and just leave us out it. Hope it’s not your pr firm that advises because who ever that is have thrown the people live in glades and the REAL farmers under the bus.

    • cyndi

      August 31, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      I’m going to bookmark this piece so I can show people you can no clue what your talking about. Especially with Brian. go look at his commerical that he made with exosphere. good him and the now or neverglades declaration. I hope he will have the courage to speak up. After all he had two fundraisers from the Fanjuls and have the balls to defy them and say buy the land.

    • Scott Graddy

      August 31, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Cyndi your leftist agenda is has been exposed. Get ready for the REAL voters version of Climate Change in politics in 2017!

      • Scott Graddy

        August 31, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        Cyndi’s is not a representative of the REAL farmers. It is a known fact that technology has helped the Ag industry (sugar farmers as well) to greatly reduce the amount of inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) used. Yet the number of Septic tanks and drain fields have increased immensely. Shall I mention lawn and golf course fertilizers as contributing?

  • StPete

    September 1, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Since 75% of voters recently supported a state wide referendum to conserve and buy at-risk lands, instead of saying voters failed to support these candidates, it seems more likely that the candidates – as most losing candidates seem to do – failed to identify their voters and adequately frame out what they were supporting.

  • Daisy Eloise Applewhite

    September 2, 2016 at 12:39 am

    The Now or Neverglades plan would be detrimental to the sugar cane farmers and to Lake Okeechobee itself. The plan would allow polluted water to continue to flow into the lake untreated which would create more algae blooms and other pollution problems in the rivers and canals flowing out of the lake. Storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee and reduction of the spread of nutrient-rich sewage sludge over the Okeechobee Watershed would be a sensible plan that wouldn’t rob sugarcane farmers of their livings.

  • Bruce

    September 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    OR their elections’ RIGGED!

  • Karen Doyle

    September 3, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Frank Mann won here in Lee county as a Signer of our declaration of interdependence..As the chairman of BOCC he is not without influence! Thank god for him we trust!

Comments are closed.


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