WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lois Frankel spent eight years as mayor of this city after serving in the Florida state legislature and once flirting with a run for governor.
In an interview, Frankel, 64, insisted that her work as an executive and legislator — who often had to “hold her nose” to vote for bills that were compromises — should help end the partisan gridlock in Washington. The 2chambers interview with Frankel appears below, with edits for length and clarity:
2chambers: You’ve had a long political career in Florida, so why do you want to continue it by coming to Washington?
Frankel: I always tell people that being the mayor of an urban city for eight years was like getting run over by a truck everyday. There’s inner satisfaction, but 24 hours a day everyday, I’m on duty.
We did so much work in this city to bring it back to life. When I took over, there was a lot of crime, and road construction had paralyzed the downtown and there was a lot of malaise. I worked with a broad cross-section of our stakeholders, not only our commission but business leaders, neighborhood leaders and really we rolled up our sleeves, we identified some of our challenges and over the course of eight years we cut crime 40 percent, the city is much more beautiful, cleaner, safer, more vibrant and more people moved in. Even during the recession, we’re economically much more vibrant than we were years ago.
This is one of those cities where you can see the difference. But we’re not immune to the forces of the world.
I was seeing middle class friends who were in their 50s who had worked their whole lives getting laid off. And I felt the same frustrations of most Americans – I looked to see what the representatives in government are doing. One of my representatives was Allen West, and I just thought that he represented the epitome of tea party paralysis. I decided that I was at a point in my life where I had the experience, not only as a state legislator, where I worked in the minority and the majority, but I also raised a son who went through public schools and became a Captain in the United States Marines and fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The combination of those experiences really suited me to do this.
2chambers: Were you disappointed that you don’t get to challenge Mr. West?
Frankel: The fellow who is my challenger, his politics are — to me — as unrepresentative of this district as Mr. West. He’s got a little different personality – same politics, different personality.
2chambers: What most bothers you about Adam Hasner’s positions?
Frankel: Mr. Hasner signed that little pledge from Grover Norquist, so he’s going to come with one arm tied behind his back, with an approach that all we really have to do is drop taxes on the very rich and it’ll all trickle down.
I think the better way is to have both private and public sector investing in our infrastructure and research and development, that when we give tax breaks, it’s to companies who are going to keep jobs here or retrain workers that need new skills. We have a huge difference on how to protect and strengthen Medicare. He has adopted the Ryan budget plan, and keep in mind that Mr. Hasner was running against [Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)] over a year ago. He staked out his positions as the most conservative, partisan Republican in the race. Back then, he called the Ryan budget bold and said it didn’t go far enough. And this is a budget that cuts scholarships and research and development and cuts contraception and schools. And this the plan that turns Medicare into a voucher system.
Here’s where we agree: Yes, the cost of health-care has been going up over the past few years and more baby boomers are going to be going into the system. And that’s going to put a strain and challenge on the program in order to keep it solvent.
I support the efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse. You cannot [have] this huge system with the amount of fraud, waste and abuse that we’ve had and are having. The Affordable Care Act is a very good forward step in terms of providing resources for enforcement tools.
We have got to find more efficient ways to deliver care and get away from fees for service. I also believe the Affordable Care Act is going to test new ways of delivering health-care. And there’s got to be a huge emphasis on prevention.
2chambers: Congress is a very unpopular, unproductive place. What is Lois Frankel going to do to help turn that around?
Frankel: I bring an attitude of a record of getting things done in a partisan environment. I served 14 years in the state legislature and served in both the minority and majority. I believe I have a good record of sponsoring meaningful legislation that helped the seniors and children of this state. And as mayor, when I got elected, three of the five commissioners supported my opponent, the business community supported my opponent and many of the neighborhood leaders did too. But within months we were working together.
I have learned how to take votes where I had to hold my nose, because I had to compromise – something that you learn to do, especially when you have been in the minority.
2chambers: I notice that your first TV ad was shot in your son’s restaurant. You talk a lot about his military service – why is that?
Frankel: My son was born right here in Florida, he went to public schools and went to the University of Florida and surprised me – I’ll tell you that – when he went into the service.
I talk about him, because it’s part of my experience: When you look at what’s going on in the world, the chaos of the world, when you look at the recent history, look, I grew up during the Vietnam War. Now, we’ve just witnessed the war in Iraq, which was the wrong war to fight, we shouldn’t have been in it. My own opinion on Afghanistan is that we should have gotten out quicker.
But aside from my opinions, having the experience of having someone you love – in this case, my only child – having that experience gives me an insight that is important in Congress, where you actually make war and peace decisions and have to decide whether to give foreign aid.
And incidentally, my son left here at age 18 to go to college, went to the Marines and basically he’s seen the world. But he came back, he went to graduate school, he got a Master’s in foreign policy and went back to Afghanistan working for USAID. He came back home and gave me the best compliment of my life, because I don’t think he ever believed that he would come back and live here in West Palm Beach. But he said, what a great city this has become and I’m going to put down my roots.
2chambers: Do you think the president has been as strong an ally to Israel as necessary?
2chamers: So you don’t believe the Republican or conservative criticism of how Obama has handled Israel?
Frankel: No, I mean, look at his record. The foreign aid has gone up to Israel. There’s so much exaggeration about personality kind of things, but look at the actions and I think he’s been a very, very strong ally of Israel.
2chambers: How is the president going to win in Florida?
Frankel: The way the president is going to win Florida is to just stay on message: Medicare is so important in this state. He’s running against a team whose idea is to end Medicare as we know it, turn it into a very risky voucher program that AARP — who’s nonpartisan — says undermines Medicare. He’s running against a team that favors the tax cuts for the very rich and the expense of everybody else.