In the race to represent the 26th District, Democratic incumbent Sen. Laurie Berman continues to lead challenger Steve Byers with 95% of precincts reporting.
By 8:30 p.m., 274 of the 286 precincts had been counted, and Berman had nearly 55% of the vote, nearly 21,000 votes ahead of Byers.
Berman, 64, is an attorney, and Byers, 54, is an insurance claims adjuster, beekeeper and founder of Hilltop Christian Fellowship in Monticello.
Both candidates call Delray Beach home, a region of more than 390,000 voters that stretches from Boynton Beach on the east coast to northern Boca Raton and extends to the western border of Palm Beach County, including the Glades.
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Information about the competition:State Sen. Lori Berman faces political newcomer Steve Byers in the November race for the 26th District
Lori Berman officiating, goals
In his ten years in both the state House and Senate, Berman said he was most proud of passing the Purple Alert bill. Like an Amber Alert for children or a Silver Alert for seniors, a Purple Alert sends a missing person notification to adults with developmental disabilities. The state senator also helped add workplace discrimination protections for pregnant women to state law.
Among his legislative priorities, Berman lists affordable health care, protecting access to abortion, funding public schools, climate change and preventing gun violence.
But he said there is still work to be done, such as expanding Medicaid and passing Grayson’s Law, which seeks to terminate or suspend joint custody if the child or other parent believes the child may be a victim of domestic violence.
Berman acknowledged that those jobs and other Democratic priorities, including protecting abortion rights, could be difficult to accomplish if Gov. Ron DeSantis is re-elected and the GOP maintains a comfortable majority in Tallahassee.
“I wouldn’t be in the Legislature if I wasn’t a glass-half-full person,” Berman said. “If the governor gets the seat, if he wins by the double digits I’ve been hearing lately, I think it’s going to be a really tough session for the minority party. And I think there will be very little compromise because the governor will be ready to run for president.”
Steve Byers on experience, goals
Byers wants to address homeowner’s insurance and HOA issues, as well as voter fraud. He believes that election supervisors should know how each voter voted as a form of verification, and he believes it is important to invest in public schools by incentivizing teachers with better pay while homeschooling their children.
If elected, Byers believes his party affiliation will work in his favor. He ran for the seat to serve as a choice for voters.
“If I’m there as a Republican, at least I have a majority that I can swing and if they like me, we’re going to make a difference,” he said.
About abortion and housing insurance
Abortion was shaping up to be a major issue in the Legislature’s next session — something Berman said he hoped voters wouldn’t forget — and that DeSantis’ re-election would ensure abortion would be “even more limited.” But Hurricane Ian and the property insurance market will certainly shift the legislative focus, both candidates said.
Berman said potential solutions to the insurance crisis include creating a national catastrophe fund, similar to a state fund that partially reimburses insurers for hurricane losses. It also wants to require insurance companies that provide auto insurance in Florida but write property insurance elsewhere to offer similar coverage.
Byers, who worked with property owners affected by Hurricane Michael in 2018, said he feels insurance companies are “greedy” and “out of touch” and that lawmakers are only catching on to insurance companies’ claims that frivolous lawsuits affect their bottom lines. .
“The hand is greedy. Hand gets stuck in cookie jar. We need to leave some cookies so you can get your hand out of the cookie jar,” she said. “The solution is to ensure that they realize the risk-reward benefit, so that insurance companies don’t have to be so fat.”