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Politics

SD 27: Two Dem State Reps Battle for Open Florida Seat in Palm Beach County

July 29, 2012 - 6:00pm

On Aug. 14, two Democrats serving together in the Florida House of Representatives -- Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach -- will clash in a primary for the SD 27 open seat in the state Senate that represents parts of Palm Beach County.

Both Democratic hopefuls have done well fundraising, but Clemens has the edge in the money chase. As of July 20, he had raised more than $119,500 and relied on more than $23,000 in loans. Of that, he had spent more than $83,000, giving him just under $60,000 in the final weeks before the primary.

As of July 20, Bernard, who filed at the start of April, a few days after Clemens, netted almost as much as his rival -- more than $114,300 -- but has not had to rely on loans. By the same date, Bernard spent almost $78,500, giving him less than $37,000 in the bank.

Neither Clemens nor Bernard is a veteran of the House and both men could have returned to that chamber if they had wanted to.

Clemens was first elected to the House in 2010, after serving as mayor of Lake Worth. Despite being a freshman, he has risen to become the ranking Democrat on the State Affairs Committee. He represents parts of Palm Beach County.

An attorney who served as vice mayor and city commissioner of Delray Beach, Bernard was first elected to the Florida House in a special election in 2009 to represent parts of Palm Beach County. He has served on a host of committees, including the one that oversaw the redistricting process.

The two candidates have garnered the support of very different organizations as they look to move to the upper chamber. Clemens has won the backing of organized labor groups like the AFL-CIO and SEIU. On the other hand, Bernard has been endorsed by the largest players in the business community -- the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida (AIF).

With no Republicans or minor party candidates in the race, whoever emerges with the Democratic nomination will be an extremely heavy favorite to head back to Tallahassee in November.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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