FORT LAUDERDALE — Let’s start the election campaign.

One of the most interesting races is for the House District 100 seat in northeast Broward, the county’s only legislative seat considered winnable for a Republican.

Two-term Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, faces another challenge from lawyer and former diplomat Linda Thompson Gonzalez of Lauderdale-By-the-Sea. LaMarca easily beat Thompson Gonzalez two years ago. (This newspaper backed LaMarca two years ago, but endorsed Thompson Gonzalez on Friday).

To defeat LaMarca, who has a history of homegrown support, Thompson Gonzalez needs voters to focus on his record. One of his issues is LaMarca’s vote for a restrictive 15-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest (HB 5). The vote could hurt LaMarca with female voters, in particular.

It doesn’t help when Democrats try to make LaMarca look good.

Thompson Gonzalez supporters ostensibly ask why the all-Democratic County Commission is giving LaMarca a public forum to take credit for a state grant to the Nancy J. Cotterman Center, a respected Fort Lauderdale organization that treats rape victims, among other services. LaMarca sponsored the $306,000 House grant (HB 2751), which will expand services for victims of sexual violence, child abuse and human trafficking, according to legislative documents.

“It created a bit of a stir because of her vote,” Broward Mayor Michael Udine said.

LaMarca’s ability to bring money home is one of his selling points as a re-election contender. Udine said county staff arranged LaMarca’s visit and two Democratic senators, Lauren Book and Jason Pizzo, would also be invited to share the spotlight on Tuesday. “I hope it will calm people down,” Udine said.

The days are long and lonely on the trail, and candidates will gladly talk to voters wherever they find them.

At the Beach Community Center in Fort Lauderdale, the Bermuda Riviera Homeowners’ Association invited candidates for District 1 City Commission to appear Thursday night. Two showed up; two did not. John Charles Herbst and Chris Williams spoke and answered questions from a crowd of approximately 25 people.

It’s the civic heartbeat of a thriving city: engaged homeowner associations. There are nearly two dozen in this district alone.

Voters, including some boat owners, have questioned a new waterways ordinance and the uncertain future of the Galleria mall site. But what motivated them was the possibility of increasing the height of buildings to 500 feet high or nearly 50 stories outside the city center, for projects that seek the zoning of the planned development district. (PDD). Current code limits heights to 300 feet.

Williams and Herbst, both knowledgeable, stuck to serious neighborhood issues, not politics.

Williams, 55, a lifelong city resident (“…I was born in Holy Cross,” he said) and a longtime civic leader in the Coral Ridge neighborhood, addressed the sans -shelter and begging, two growing concerns. He spoke of “safer streets, limited development and smart development”.

Herbst, 58, a former municipal auditor who was fired earlier this year, cited his accounting skills at a time of skyrocketing inflation and no other candidate can match his knowledge in a year when three of the five seats in the City Hall will be replaced.

“I’ve attended 800 city commission meetings,” Herbst said. “No one else can say that.”

At the Sun Sentinel, we are in week 4 of online candidate interviews, a format we started at the start of the pandemic.

Republican House candidate Vincent Parlatore of Pembroke Pines deserves credit for running in a year when many GOP hopefuls are boycotting the forums, even those from nonpartisan interest groups such as Tiger Bay Clubs and the League of Women Voters. Boycotting respected groups in search of answers is offensive behavior on the part of candidates, and voters should respond accordingly.

Florida State Rep. Marie Woodson, who is running for re-election, gestures as she talks to members of the union that represents airport workers and security guards, Thursday, 7 July 2022, at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla Members of 32BJ SEIU supported Woodson and other Haitian American and Jamaican American candidates who support their calls for higher salaries and benefits.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Parlatore challenges Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson of Hollywood in the Democratic-majority District 105 of South Broward. Part of what lends credibility to a candidate is being prepared, especially when it comes to challenging an incumbent.

So we asked Parlatore: how much is the state budget? “I’m not going to make things up, because I’m not 100% sure,” he said. (He knew the state had a record $20 billion surplus, but a 10-second Google search would provide the answer.)

To the same question, Woodson did not hesitate: 109.1 billion dollars.

Shaking his head, Woodson said, “He decided to come against me when he doesn’t even know how much the state budget is. This baffles me.

It also baffles us. On these ill-informed responses, approvals sometimes turn.

Steve Bousquet is an opinion editor for the Sun Sentinel and a columnist in Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale. Contact him at [email protected](850) 567-2240 and follow him on twitter @stevebousquet.