POLITICAL FOOD FIGHT: CANDIDATE CRITICIZES MOONEY’S STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE VOTE

A Republican candidate for state representative is criticizing current Rep. Jim Mooney’s vote supporting strawberry shortcake as Florida’s official state dessert. Mooney said he finds the latest attack by his opponent to be “eighth-grade material.”

A June 2 Facebook post showed Rhonda Rebman Lopez holding up a Key lime pie. Within the post, Rebman Lopez states that her opponent voted for strawberry shortcake as the state’s official dessert and not Key lime pie. 

Early into the legislative session, senators and representatives in the House passed a bill declaring strawberry shortcake the state’s official dessert. The Senate version, SB 1006, was sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess. He represents Plant City, which has 10,000-plus acres of strawberry fields. According to his bill, those fields make up 75 percent of the U.S. winter strawberry crop.

Senators unanimously said ‘yes’ to the bill.  The House followed up with a 109-4 vote. 

Rebman Lopez told Keys Weekly that she was called into a meeting by some longtime residents of Key West. She said they were “disturbed that he didn’t fight for Key lime pie to remain the state dessert.”

“Key lime pie is one of our own. No matter what happens, we have to defend Key lime pie. Key lime pie is a catalyst for our economy,” she said. “Do you know how many people come to the Keys and expect to eat Key lime pie? And do you know how many stores sell Key lime pie?

“For our current representative to try to be everyone’s friend and say strawberries are a huge industry in Florida, we all know that. There’s a lot of huge industries in Florida. But Key lime pie is the Florida Keys,” she continued. 

Mooney, who was among the 109 “yes” votes, said the Key lime pie was never an issue in Tallahassee. The strawberry farmers, who represent a $5-billion-a-year industry, asked for strawberry shortcake to be a dessert. 

“The whole thing was I didn’t vote against the Key lime pie. I voted to make the strawberry shortcake a dessert in the state of Florida. And Key lime pie is still the pie of the state of Florida,” Mooney said. “Of course Key lime is still the best dessert on the menu.”

During the session, the Conch Republic Key Lime Pie Council sent out a petition on change.org that urged the legislature to declare strawberry shortcake as the state’s official cake and Key lime pie the official pie. It garnered 7,131 votes. “Together they can share the limelight as Florida’s official desserts,” read a proposed resolution by Key West’s David Sloan, Paul Menta and Sam Kaufman.

A staple within the Keys dining scene and throughout the Florida dessert menu, the pie still holds the title as the state’s official pie. 

Mooney added that he’s more concerned about rising insurance rates and other matters that are affecting the lives of Monroe County residents. 

“I try to stay focused on what matters to the constituents, not the media,” he said. “What matters to constituents is insurance rates are blowing up. In Monroe County, what matters is 2023. And she doesn’t have answers for that.”

Mooney and Rebman Lopez are vying for the Republican nod heading into the November general election. Mooney, Rebman Lopez and Alexandria Suarez, who’s running for a school board seat against Sue Woltanski this year, competed in a fiery 2020 primary that saw attack mailers and text messages. Mooney edged out Rebman Lopez by 148 votes to win the primary. He went on to defeat Democrat Clint Barras in the November 2020 election.  

Monetary campaign contributions to Rebman Lopez total $52,685, while Mooney’s campaign has $157,493.20. They’re joined by Big Pine resident Robert Allen, who filed last December. Contributions to his campaign total $150. 

Mooney is endorsed by several Republican leaders in Tallahassee. They include Paul Renner, incoming speaker of the Florida House; Danny Perez, speaker of the House in 2024; and Sam Garrison, speaker of the House in 2026. 

“Certainly, having the speaker of the house and house Republican leadership behind me says a lot,” he said. “That means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to the people of the district who understand that politics are not cut and dry. It’s not always an easy path. At the end of the day, there’s a reason why leadership endorsed me. It’s because I do a good job representing my district.”

Rebman Lopez, who announced her run on April 4, has secured an endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida. She said she continues to listen to the district’s needs and intends on delivering on those needs if elected. 

“Homestead and Redland got shafted badly. Some of our largest farms in the country are in Redland,” she said. “Ninety percent of farming in winter comes out of South Florida. Homestead is the largest city in District 120.”

Lawyer and Big Coppitt resident Adam Gentle and Cutler Bay resident Daniel Horton-Diaz are vying for the Democratic nod. Primaries are set for Aug. 23.

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).