Incumbent State Rep. Rick Roth (R-District 85) will face Democrat Ellen Baker in the race for a state legislative seat that covers much of northern Palm Beach County, including parts of The Acreage.
When filing closed late last month, neither candidate had challengers from within their own parties, so the race will bypass the Aug. 28 primary election and head to voters during the Nov. 6 general election.
Roth has served as a state representative since defeating Democrat Robert Simeone in 2016. Garnering nearly 58 percent of the vote, Roth took the seat vacated by former State Rep. Patrick Rooney Jr.
Rick Roth — A South Florida native, Roth is owner of Roth Farms in Belle Glade and has spent his two years in office emphasizing local community involvement in order to improve some of the issues affecting Palm Beach County.
Reflecting on his first term in office, Roth is running with a different outlook.
“I have a much different perspective [this election]. I first ran feeling that the government in general was not doing that good of a job, and I was focusing more on federal issues than state issues,” he explained. “Now, in general, I’m pleased with the state government’s efforts to be more pro-jobs and pro-business, as well as cleaning up the environment. I am still, though, feeling very negative [about] the federal government.”
Getting the public to be proactive and responsive is one of the main solutions to the problems stemming from the federal government, he said.
“I do feel like there is still the same solution needed [as when I first ran], and that is that more people need to be involved in politics. Unfortunately, men care more about things like sports than they do about politics — but the solution is that we have to get people involved in local, state and federal politics. If people don’t like what [the government] is doing, then we need to do more,” Roth explained.
Roth feels that hearing the opinions and political dialogue from the public is what will help district and local politicians make an actual difference in Tallahassee and Washington. “I want to encourage people to get involved and do more with me, with commissioners and with everyone elected, because we need help,” Roth said.
As far as issues affecting the District 85 area, Roth sees jobs, education and child care to be some of the most prominent.
“It is all about giving people more opportunities to be successful. The government is not the creator of jobs, but it can often be the roadblock for jobs, so it’s my goal to help the government get out of the way,” he said. “We need to focus on education, in order to create well-rounded individuals in our society, which [will lead to] having good workers and good jobs. We also need to make sure kids aren’t growing up in unsafe environments.”
When asked why voters should re-elect him, Roth’s answer was simple.
“We all have our problems, and we all know our problems, but we all have different solutions,” he said. “If elected, my goals will stay based on jobs, education and children. I think it’s really important that we all understand that America is the greatest country in the world, and that it is the best country in the world because of our constitution. Florida is a paradise, and the best place to live — we just have to keep it that way.”
Learn more about Roth at www.rickroth.org.
Ellen Baker — A Palm Beach County resident for almost 30 years, Baker has been a special education teacher at William T. Dwyer High School for 17 years.
Baker’s previous attempt at elected office was a race for the Palm Beach County School Board in 2016, where she came in third in a six-way race.
If elected, Baker hopes to serve as a voice for the children in public schools throughout the district.
“[District 85] is a very large district. I would aim to bring a [modern] voice and hope to be a big advocate for the funding of public schools,” she said. “I believe public education is a right and a fundamental part of the middle class. I have been up in Tallahassee as an advocate for kids and students every year for about 10 years.”
One of the main forces leading Baker to run for this position, she explained, is the lack of change and collaboration that she has seen throughout the years.
“As a teacher, a mom of three and a grandmother of four, I’m tired of politicians and lobbyists and the whole [system],” Baker explained. “I plan to have meetings and send newsletters to make change, to be accountable and present, and to have open dialogue with my constituents so that I can see what the issues are in order to accurately represent everyone.”
Along with public school funding, Baker hopes to work on getting other prominent issues addressed.
“I care a lot about healthcare,” she said. “I really want to make sure that parents of special needs kids have access to affordable healthcare. Having lived through the Parkland [shooting], we see that mental health is also an issue. I love teenagers, but there are a lot of issues that kids go through.”
She also is focused on environmental issues.
“Clean water is another important issue, as not having clean water hurts farmers and affects our health,” she said. “All citizens deserve equal protection, so there is a great need for all of us to take responsibility for the environment.”
Baker feels that her broad expertise and professional experiences will allow her to uniquely serve the people of District 85.
“I’m very passionate about change. I think that my background gives me a lot of compassion and empathy for many different people,” she said. “I think that my district has a lot of people who have been disenfranchised by the representation that we’ve had in this area for decades.”
If elected, Baker promised that she will always be around and available.
“You will know who I am. I will be around and responsive and truly represent my constituents,” she said. “I would be honored to have [the public] vote for me. It’s a humbling experience to run for office, but it’s an opportunity for me to make a change and make things better.”
Learn more about Baker at www.electellenbaker.com.