TCPalm: Levy and Harrell differ in approaches to river, Brightline and health care policy

Posted on October 3, 2018

George Andreassi, Treasure Coast Newspapers

The candidates for state Senate in District 25, which covers all of Martin and St. Lucie counties, hold significantly different approaches to St. Lucie river pollution, Brightline passenger-train service and state health care policy.


Democrat Dr. Rob Levy, a physician and small-businessman, wants to change the way the state deals with water policy and the St. Lucie River, health policy and Medicaid and Brightline.

Republican Gayle Harrell, who has served 14 years in the state House, wants to use her experience to continue working toward the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges, supporting child welfare and ensuring Brightline pays for local safety measures.

The candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot are running to fill the two years remaining on the unexpired term of state Sen. Joe Negron, who is resigning after serving a two-year stint as Senate president.

Both of his would-be successors gave Negron high marks for using his political clout to engineer the deal for the southern reservoir, which would divert polluted lake water from being discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Levy and Harrell were interviewed Sept. 25 by the TCPalm Editorial Board. Here are some of their responses to questions about the three top issues:

Levy blamed Gov. Rick Scott and the entrenched Republican power structure in the state government for cutting funding for the state agencies that oversee water policy and help manage Lake Okeechobee.

“For the last 20 years, I think the one thing we can agree on is the river has deteriorated substantially,” Levy said. “The common denominator is that ... the governorship, the state Senate and the state House have been controlled by one party."

“It’s accelerated under Rick Scott,” Levy said. “We need to change that. We need to have some semblance of balance put back into government."

“I want to restore the funding to the Department of Environmental Protection and the 1,000 employees that were cut and $70 million that was cut from that,” Levy said. “I want to make sure ... we put people on the Water Management District who are scientists, not businessmen, not agribusiness."

“I also want to make sure we fully fund Florida Forever and Amendment 1, which is currently in litigation to force the Legislature to do what 75 percent of the populace decided to do,” Levy said.

Harrell said she wants to continue work on the 78.2 billion-gallon reservoir and other long-standing water-quality initiatives.

“I live on our beautiful North Fork of the St. Lucie River,” Harrell said. “It is really my passion to make sure we continue the progress we are making."

“This, to me, is the No. 1 priority," Harrell said. "We have to continue the course in the actions we have initiated, making sure we get those $200 million, 25 percent of Amendment 1 money, going directly into Comprehensive Everglades Restoration with priority given to stopping those releases…

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