Why are Ricky Shirah and Ed Shoemaker running for the District 40 Florida House Seat? Because they care and each of them wants to make a difference, so said each as they answered the first question posed at the Monday, Aug. 18 Tiger Bay Club of Polk County. Most of Lakeland is in District 40.
Both will go up against either Colleen Burton or John Shannon, who face off for the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by Seth McKeel, who has reached the term limit mark; incidentally, Burton was present at the monthly luncheon. However, both Shirah and Schumacher emphasized that political party affiliation should be irrelevant.
“It’s not about political parties,” said Shirah, who explained why he was running for office. “It’s going to Tallahassee and doing the right thing.”
Shoemaker said that for the past 22 years he and his wife have helped others as to why he was running. There have been changes and he wants to take those changes to “a new level.”
“To me, it’s about doing what’s right,” Shoemaker said. However, it also extended beyond that. In conversations he has had, people tell him they are concerned about education, jobs and the sovereignty of Florida; especially the latter and the scope of the federal government “overreaching.”
“We need legislators in Tallahassee who will commit to doing that,” he said.
However, Shoemaker was not up-to-date on the issue of the My Ride/My Roads initiative which, if voters approve, will add one cent to the county sales tax, raising it to eight cents per dollar spent, with a half cent going to mass transit and the other half going to road projects.
Shoemaker admitted his ignorance, yet declared he is against raising taxes. In the same breath he told the audience he has been endorsed by the Florida Ax the Tax committee.
(Ax the Tax is a grassroots citizens group founded in 1982 by media consultant Doug Guetzloe. According to an undated column on its website, www.winningcampaigns.org, it has claimed victory in numerous referendums it felt were dubious to the tone of then-$11 billion. However, in May 2012 Guetzloe was found guilty of cheating on his taxes and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. In all, authorities said Doug Guetzloe owed between $39,000 and $50,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. (Source: WFTV-Channel 9)
Shirah, though, said he supports the initiative and had met with Phillips about this.
“I think it’s an excellent proposal,” he said. Shirah added it would create jobs and opportunities. He reiterated an earlier comment about doing what he believed is right for central Florida.
On several occasions, Shoemaker tied his answers to questions on his career in child welfare services; he owns and operates Mr. Ed’s Family and Education Intervention Services, Lakeland. Among those questions included what should the state do with a projected $1 million surplus, and what each candidate would do to better the foster care system.
Shoemaker declared that by increasing the pay for caseworkers it would bring about stability in the workforce. With better pay, caseworkers would stay in their jobs and that would prove profitable in the long run as with stability, families and children would be better served, he said.
In addition to the My Ride/My Road initiative, Shirah and Shoemaker differed over abortion. Both claimed deep religious feelings, but Shirah said it is ultimately up to a woman. Shoemaker told of his mother who contracted polio as a child and would never be able to walk on her own without assistance. Doctors advised against carrying the fetus to full-term. It was advise his mother and father disregarded, thus he was born.
“I’m against abortion altogether,” he said. “It’s not against denying a woman her rights, it’s about advocating for that life.”
The other issue where they sharply differed was over their viewpoint on minimum wage. Shoemaker said that as a business owner the last thing needed is for the government telling private business what they need to pay employees. The current minimum, as of 2009, is $7.25 per hour.
“Can anyone live off the minimum wage?” Shirah rhetorically asked then answered. “There’s no way. You can’t live on it. The minimum wage needs to be increased.”