Republican voters will choose between a former Key West mayor and a Key Largo legislative aide when they vote in the Aug. 14 primary for Florida House of Representatives.
The District 120 seat is held by outgoing Rep. Ron Saunders D-Key West, who is abandoning it for a State Senate run.
His assistant, Holly Merrill Raschein, is seeking the state House seat under the Republican banner. Also seeking the seat is Morgan McPherson, a two-term Key West mayor.
Raschein describes herself as a fiscal conservative, and says her work as a legislative assistant has familiarized her with issues like high windstorm insurance rates, wastewater projects and resource protection.
McPherson says his long record of public service in Key West makes him an ideal candidate for the legislative position.
Whichever one of them persuades the greatest number of Republican voters on primary day will face off against Democratic candidate Ian Whitney of Key West.
Raschein maintains that she can appeal to voters across party lines in a big way because of her history of working in a bipartisan mode. That history, she said, will translate into effectiveness in Tallahassee if she is elected.
"It is the foundation of my whole campaign," said Raschein. She worked for a fellow Republican, Ken Sorensen, who term-limited out. When Saunders took over the seat he met with her, she said, and invited her to join his team, even though they are of different parties. "How that is going to help me is I already know the other side, I can work both sides of the aisle. People don't necessarily care about your party, they want what is good for the Keys and for South Dade."
McPherson, who sets up credit card machines and other point-of-sale systems for a living, and also handles some real estate, said he sees little difference between his prior years of service as Key West mayor and the House seat he now seeks.
"As mayor you are trying to serve the constituents of a particular city, now you expand it from just one city to seven cities. But the scope of services is the same," McPherson said. "In the Keys, the two biggest issues are going to be windstorm and wastewater or sewer funds. Major issues in other areas of the district are jobs, the economy and crime."
One area of concern that cuts across community boundaries, McPherson said, is education. He says that if elected he will make education issues a major part of his office's functions.
"Right now we put our teachers in a box and our students in a box and then we ask them to fit in a bubble," he said. "Very serious reform is needed in regard to not only the K-12, but also the collegiate side of it."
Something must be done at the state level, McPherson said, concerning the cost of higher education.
"Since 2009 the Florida Legislature has allowed the various institutions to increase their tuition and, in that short period of time, they have increased it an average of 54 percent," McPherson said.
Both candidates have appeared at Republican Party functions, where they have made pitches to the party faithful.
"I know Holly and Morgan and each of them brings something to the table," said Southernmost Republican Club President Thomas Mack, when asked his opinion on the GOP choices. "I am happy with these two choices. Holly has experience in her administrative position and Morgan has his local experience."