Three candidates are running to represent Alachua, Putnam and Marion counties in the state Senate.
State Sen. Keith Perry, R – Gainesville, is seeking re-election. He first won election to the state senate in 2016 after serving in the state House of Representatives from 2010 until 2016.
Perry is being challenged by Democratic candidate Dr. Kayser Enneking and non-party affiliate candidate Charles Goston.
Perry owns a roofing business, Perry Roofing. Enneking is a Gainesville native and anesthesiologist at UF Health Shands. Goston is a former Gainesville city commissioner, serving from 2015 until 2018.
Above, you can hear each person detail their experiences and perspectives that they would bring to the job. Below, here’s a summary of their positions on key issues that emerged from WUFT’s questions.
What should be the role of the state legislature in local government?
Enneking: The state legislature should not micromanage local government, but instead broadly set agenda for issues that cross county borders. Topics that the state legislature should focus on include the environment and funding public education.
Goston: State government should assist and help create opportunities for cities and counties facing challenges. “If you cannot create opportunity in the face of opposition, then you are not legislating.”
Perry: Has pushed forward policies that give “home rule” to the individual. Look at what government should do, not what it can do.
Enneking: She disputed Perry’s characterization of education funding, saying that funding has been cut. Criticized the use of a referendum vote in Alachua County to obtain money for school infrastructure that the county should have received from the state legislature.
Goston: It seems as though more money is going to charter and public schools, which hurts public schools. The legislature has a responsibility to provide funding to help support student, improve schools and improve conditions. Suggested collecting business taxes to help support education funding.
Perry: Noted that there is record funding for education as a whole this year, with funding increasing every year since 2011. He also said that funding per capita has not dropped.
Enneking: Strongly supports the arts. Arts fosters creativity, which is important for the next generation of entrepreneurs, who will be responsible for creating more jobs. Believes in incorporating the arts in education, for which the state should provide the funding.
Goston: Has always embraced the arts. Supports students being able to develop themselves artistically. Believes students should be able to explore a variety of interests, including the arts.
Perry: Has supported music education in elementary schools. Finds it unfortunate that funding and support for the arts has fallen to the wayside in place of STEM fields. Pushed for additional funding to support building a new music building for the University of Florida.
Access to healthcare.
Enneking: This district has one of the highest rates of uninsured individuals in the U.S. Criticized state legislature’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion in 2013. Medicaid expansion is helpful for rural areas and hospitals, which would include this district. We need to get access to healthcare for everyone.
Goston: “Medicaid expansion is compulsory.” Would support enrolling individuals with need into healthcare programs like Medicaid.
Perry: Medicaid expansion is not in the future of the state because it is not in the will of the legislature. Believes that Medicaid expansion is not fiscally sustainable and is not morally acceptable because of bureaucratic issues.
Each candidate’s closing statement:
Enneking: “In America, we have a lot of problem with bias. We know that. The incident that happened in Philadelphia with Starbucks shows that there is a lot of bias out there. Some of it is unconscious, some of it is conscious. In his opening statement, Senator Perry said ‘I go to Tallahassee because I’d like to develop policies that benefit my kids and their friends.’ We need somebody in this position who is looking out for everybody. My run for this state senate seat has been fueled by the fact that we have some of the highest uninsured rates, no access to medical care for many people in this community. 30 percent of the people in this district can’t afford their housing. Our public school teachers haven’t seen a pay raise in a long time. We need somebody in the state senate who is looking out for everybody, and that’s why I’m running.”
Goston: “I want people to understand that taking a chance on me is that the fact that you are not taking a chance, you are making a choice for a change. We have got to get away from this race politics, where you have to be a certain race to get to a certain position. And that is why I mentioned in the beginning in my opening statement that the only African-American we’ve had up in the senate for a long, long time was Josiah T. Walls. And I’m not going up looking at myself as a minority. I’m going up looking at a man because I was born a minority, and I was born in a condition where it was segregation, I will do exactly what Dr. Enneking said. I will go up with an attitude where I’m going to help everybody because I know what it means and feels to suffer because you look a certain way or you’re on a certain social and economic status. And so, it puts me on a position where you have to be able to look at everybody’s position, help everybody because that’s what you want to do.”
Perry: “It was mentioned about biases. Try being a Republican in Gainesville. So, certainly, have a lot of a biases based on our party affiliation and not who we are. This is the choice and this is the question that I think is pretty clear in the debate we’ve had today. The question becomes government’s role and do we think the answers lie in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., or in City Hall? I don’t think they do. I’m a strong believer, I’m not an anarchist. I believe that we should have strong government with committed values and goals. But, I believe the answers to the problems that we have are going to be [inaudible] by the generation of people that you are graduating here at the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, and the people like me who don’t even have a college education. The young generation is going to change the world, but they have to be given an opportunity. If you think that a top-down, centralized form of government that controls every transaction in our lives is the way to go, then I think you should probably support my opponent. If you think we need a more organic, ground-up opportunity for young kids to go out and change the world, then you need to have a different approach to the government’s role in our society.”