Another environmental group associated with Gov. Ron DeSantis put its support behind Heather Fitzenhagen in a heated Senate primary.
The Everglades Trust announced support for the Fort Myers Republican in the District 27 contest Monday. Moreover, the group took pop shots at her opponent, Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues.
“For some politicians, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of Everglades restoration, and the critical point we’ve reached,” said Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell. “They remain tone deaf and influenced by the very corporations and their lobbyists who have put our water and waterways in serious jeopardy, yet come election time, they’ll tell you they’re pro-Everglades. Ray Rodrigues is one of them.”
Both Rodrigues and Fitzenhagen, both state House members now, have touted their environmental records. Rodrigues notably extolled funding obtained for the C-43 Reservoir and improvements to the Tamiami Trail.
But he’s also been pilloried as “Sugar Ray” by critics who see him as tied to sugar interests. The Everglades Trust piled on with critiques.
“Southwest Florida’s jobs, economy and human health are directly tied to clean water, yet Mr. Rodrigues stayed quiet for eight years in the State House,” Mitchell said.
The group had only positive things to say about Fitzenhagen’s record, which they said has been “opposite” Rodrigues’.
“She has a track record of standing up to an industry that is physically and politically blocking the reconnection of Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades – Big Sugar,” Mitchell said. “As a State Representative, she has been steadfast in her commitment to prioritizing clean water above all else.”
The Trust proved a critical voice in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The organization backed DeSantis in the Republican primary over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Then, too, the group took issue with Putnam’s ties to sugar companies. Dismissing “Pay-to-Plant Putnam,” the group then said DeSantis “understands that water is our state’s most precious resource.” The group went on to endorse DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the general election, one of the only environment interests to endorse the Republican nominee.
Fitzenhagen’s biggest point of distinction since her last-minute entry in the Senate race has been the support of environmental organizations. Of particular note, Rep. Brian Mast, a close DeSantis ally on water issues, endorsed Fitzenhagen. He did so in a press release picturing himself, Fitzenhagen and a leader of the environmental group Captains For Clean Water.