THE ISSUE: State representative District 34 race.

OUR OPINION: Ralph Massullo Jr. is the clear choice.

A graduate of the West Virginia University School of Medicine and a practicing physician, Republican incumbent Ralph Massullo Jr. is the founder and president of Suncoast Dermatology, which has served patients locally for over 25 years.

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Democrat challenger Paul Reinhardt, a graduate of The School of Medicine, Universidad del Noreste, Tampico, Mexico, has followed several pursuits as a Tallahassee health care lobbyist, an anatomy and physiology instructor at the College of Central Florida, and a full-time caregiver for his parents, who are now deceased. Reinhardt views himself as a conservative Democrat.

Massullo and Reinhardt share common ground on the hot button Second Amendment and Roe v. Wade issues. Both are pro-life advocates and supporters of the constitutional right to bear arms.

Looking to the future, Massullo advocated for the construction of Suncoast Parkway 2 and supports its extension to U.S. 19 in Red Level. Reinhardt, however, opposes the parkway’s extension from U.S. 98 to State Road 44, which is underway.

On water issues, both Massullo and Reinhardt oppose off-shore drilling in the Gulf and support septic-to-sewer and full funding of Florida Forever. As for our local waters, Massullo has been instrumental to securing state funding for the restoration of King’s Bay, Homosassa River and Three Sisters Springs. He also helped to secure funding for local septic-to-sewer projects and co-sponsored a bill to require a septic tank inspection upon the sale of a home. In contrast, Reinhardt has said little about local water issues.

While education is a priority for both candidates, Massullo has challenged conventional thinking by advocating a paradigm shift that calls for less emphasis on standardized tests and expanded access to life skills and trades education for students not college-bound. Reinhardt, on the other hand, limits his education observations to a need for better pay and benefits for teachers and support staff.

Massullo, drawing on his experience as a practicing physician, is working two bills to improve health care quality and access. The quality-of-care bill would stabilize formularies to preclude insurers from substituting a patient’s prescribed medications. The access bill would require insurers to allow patients to receive care from “any provider” if a network provider was not available. While Reinhardt wants to improve local health care metrics and access, he offers no specifics.

Massullo is one of the wealthiest lawmakers in the Florida Legislature. Independent of special interest bonds, he is free to place his core principles and constituent interests above narrow political and policy interests.

Given Massullo’s proven track record as a successful physician, businessman and legislator, as well as a selfless stakeholder in our community who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities, Reinhardt pales in a head-to-head comparison.

A true public servant, Ralph Massullo Jr. has clearly earned re-election as District 34 in the Florida House of Representatives.