In recent weeks, the contest for the state representative seat serving the Florida Keys has become heated. The ballot features the incumbent Republican Holly Raschein against political newcomer and Democratic challenger Steven Friedman.

Friedman’s Facebook channel — Social Florida Accountability Project — says Raschein “sides with corporate polluters.” In a mass email on Oct. 26, Friedman’s campaign manager Robert Becker wrote in the first sentence “… Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Big Sugar) must think we are dumb.”

It’s an unusual tone in a local race.

“I am trying not to focus on my opponent’s negativity. When you don’t have a record to stand on, that’s what you have to go to … which is unfortunate,” Raschein said.

In 2012, Raschein defeated Ian Whitney by 5 points, in 2014 she was unopposed, and in 2016 she bested Dan Horton by 15 points. In 2018, she’s seeking her final term as what’s called a senior legislator. Her opponent, Friedman, is a charter fishing guide from the Upper Keys.

In 2018, Raschein served on six committees and subcommittees, most notably as chair of the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee, and on the Appropriations Committee. In a year of tough choices — school safety funding among them — Raschein still secured $15 million for affordable housing in the Florida Keys, almost $6 million for a new Emergency Operations Center and $10 million for the ongoing Stewardship Act with funds split between water projects (such as canal restoration) and land conservation acquisition.

Raschein, her husband who is a small business owner, and young son live in Key Largo. Prior to becoming a state legislator, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University; she holds a master’s in public administration from Florida International University. She served as a legislative aide for then-Rep. Ron Saunders before assuming his seat. When she’s not legislating, she’s fulfilling a role as a very involved member of the community including fundraising for the hospital, attending Rotary, etc.

“This is a part-time job, but I treat it like a full-time job,” she said. “My team and I sacrifice family time and other activities to travel to Tallahassee and around the district. I am present, I am accessible and I am open.

“If you tally up the last three years compared to other legislators from similar districts, our numbers are very high. That speaks to my leadership style and how hard I work to share the Keys message about our unique geography and the challenges we face. My job is twofold: to make sure we have a voice and get the resources back to plug them into useful projects like affordable housing or water quality, and also to serve our constituents. We were elected first and foremost to help the people of the Keys.”

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