May 16, 2018

KEY LARGO — Real estate attorney Pat Gessel has withdrawn her candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives District 120 seat held by incumbent Republican Holly Raschein.

Gessel said the more she researched current issues facing Monroe County, the more she realized how much time she’d need to commit to performing the job successfully. She said her practice would be negatively impacted.

“When I decided to run, I knew it would be a challenge to balance my commitment to my business with the time that would be required of me to run and serve as state representative,” she said last Friday. “I found I can’t do both.”

Gessel said her business has been very good lately.

“We are in the midst of a brisk real estate market,” she said. “I believe I would be good for our district but not at the expense of my clients. My law firm is known for great personal service and I won’t compromise that.”

She has accumulated long-term clients in the last 18 years of owning her own business in Key Largo.

“While I was campaigning I met a lot of Republicans and Democrats who want change. I encourage anyone interested in the seat who has the time and can effect change to run. They have until June 26 to do it,” Gessel said.

Gessel said she was surprised and pleased by the immediate support that she received after filing for office earlier this year and is open to the idea of campaigning again in 2020 for the District 120 seat.

The District 120 seat also includes a portion of South Dade. 

Perennial political candidate Jose Peixoto has filed as a Republican to take on Raschein.

“This is the good thing about a democratic system. If you don’t agree with somebody, then you can run against them,” the Key Largo resident said. “My main concern is that [Raschein’s] a powerful woman with a lot of good relationships and we have a big problem with lower-wage housing in the Keys, and I never see her fight for this.

“Another thing is the sewer department here in Key Largo has a lot of debt. She should be guiding them.”

Peixoto says he would like to act as liaison between state agencies and District 120 residents.

Peixoto, who ran for the U.S. House of Representative’s District 26 seat in 2016 as a a non-party affiliated candidate, was defeated by U.S. Congressman Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. He also ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District board in 2014 after withdrawing his bid for Congress that year.

In 2012, he failed to qualify as a non-affiliated party candidate for District 26, and in 2010, he lost a bid for Seat 5 on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District board.

Raschein, who’s held the District 120 seat since 2012, is seeking re-election this fall for a final two-year term under the state’s eight-year term limit.

In an earlier interview, Raschein told the Free Press that she’d continue to work to secure additional water quality and land preservation funding for the Keys, so that it may reap the full benefit of the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.

“We’ve created a long-term framework for state investments in protecting and preserving our unique marine-based environment,” she said.

tjava@keysnews.com