An independent thinker, Mast is best pick in District 18 GOP primary

RACE: U.S. House District 18, Republican primary

TERM: 2 years

CANDIDATES:

  • Dave Cummings, Port St. Lucie
  • Mark Freeman, Stuart
  • Brian Mast, Palm City (incumbent)

KEY ISSUES: Lake Okeechobee discharges and Indian River Lagoon restoration; gun laws; Brightline passenger rail; taxes

RECOMMENDATION: The two Republicans working to unseat U.S. Rep. Brian Mast face an uphill battle.

During his first term in Congress, Mast has distinguished himself as a detail-oriented advocate for District 18 who isn’t afraid to rock the boat in his own party.

A few examples of the independent thinking he has displayed:

  • After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, Mast called for a clearly defined ban on the sale of military-style rifles. Specifically, he filed a bill calling for a 60-day pause on the sale of all “gas-operated semiautomatic firearms with a rifled bore” so Congress could work to impose a permanent fix.
  • Mast bucked one of the most politically influential industries in Florida by supporting the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, which proposed reining in the federal government’s protection of sugar prices.
  • After toxic algae threatened the St. Lucie River this year, Mast demanded specific answers of the Army Corps of Engineers via a series of pointed questions about the impacts of the releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Less than two years after his election, Mast stands as an effective advocate for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. The combat-injured Army veteran has brought military-like diligence to his advocacy for cleaner water.

He also has been a diligent watchdog of the Brightline passenger rail project, which intends to traverse his Treasure Coast district without stopping, creating traffic and maritime problems along the way.

That said, both of Mast’s opponents are critical of his record — especially his post-Parkland guns proposal.

Dave Cummings, a Port St. Lucie teacher and real-estate investor, said Mast “has completely alienated his voters on the Second Amendment.” He accused Mast of flip-flopping on gun policy.

He gave Mast an “F” for his performance as a congressman, citing the continued problem of toxic algae in the district’s waterways. If elected, Cummings said his top priority would be to implement his own water plan, including “capturing and treating the discharge from Lake Okeechobee.”

Mark Freeman, a physician who lives in Stuart, called Mast “disingenuous” and said he “would be a weak candidate” in the November general election, when the primary winner will face either Lauren Baer or Pam Keith.

If elected, Freeman said his top priorities in Congress would be to uphold the Second Amendment; work toward getting full funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall; and “support President Trump.”

Where Mast’s opponents see weakness, we see strength. As a split district, District 18 needs a member of Congress who can represent all voters — not just those on the extremes of the political spectrum.

When our editorial board recommended Mast in the 2016 general election, we encouraged him to approach the role in the spirit of bipartisanship. He’s done that.

During his first term, Mast has proven himself to be a hard-working, responsive congressman who prioritizes the district’s needs over party politics.