U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., continues to take aim at All Aboard Florida (AAF).
At a House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee meeting last month, Mast grilled Mike Reininger of Florida East Coast Industries about AAF’s financing and infrastructure projects.
After the meeting, Mast insisted he wasn’t impressed with Reininger’s answers, claiming on social media AAF “continues to obstruct the truth from the citizens.”
Mast insisted taxpayers deserve the truth about who is paying for AAF, adding he thinks that group is failing to address critical safety and economic concerns.
“Today I had the opportunity to question All Aboard Florida head Mike Reininger at a committee hearing,” Mast noted. “Despite their dishonest claims to the contrary, All Aboard Florida has repeatedly pursued public, taxpayer-funded financing.”
Mast’s questioning Reininger was applauded by groups that opposed to the high-speed rail operation.
“Thank you, Rep. Brian Mast, for standing up for your constituents against All Aboard Florida,” Florida Not All Aboard posted on its Facebook page.
Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) praised Mast as a “community champion.”
But according to Jim Kovalsky, president of the Florida East Coast Railway Society, Mast was offering nothing new. Kovalsky said these are the same types of claims used against AAF for the past three years, noting the funding is private and that AAF will upgrade bridges and railroad crossings with state-of-the-art renovations.
“It's too bad that Congressman Mast obviously has no knowledge of the project and is simply taking propaganda from anti-rail groups,” Kolvasky told Sunshine State News.
Mast opposed the train when he ran for the open seat representing parts of the Treasure Coast in last year’s election, but the timing of his recent push against AAF has been called into question.
Days before Mast questioned Reininger, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) polled the district. Their results showed a top Democratic challenger -- namely, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg -- running close in a district Mast won by 10 points last year.
With Mast supporting President Donald Trump on repealing and replacing parts of Obamacare and with his focus on protecting the Indian River Lagoon, a pollster who works with the Democrats expected the freshman Republican to be in better shape.
“His numbers should be up, not lopsided,” the poller told SSN. “I guess Mast, believes going back to his roots and campaigning against AAF will help him.”
Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, a supporter of the train, told SSN that AAF has become a political “boogeyman issue.”
“AAF has won the argument in court. It’s time to move on and deal with the real issues at hand,” Parrish said.
Even Mast stated on his Facebook video that he’s not on the House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, but he asked if he could sit on it that day to participate in asking questions of the AAF executives.
Kovalsky insisted this is nothing but a wedge issue. “I suppose if you need your poll numbers to go up, Mast will try to make AAF the political whipping boy,” said Kovalsky.
AAF emailed SSN that the rail venture has been consistent on the train being privately funded and its main goal is to continue to work with the local communities on upgrading railroad crossings to ensure public safety.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at email@example.com.Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio