Some first-time candidates certainly have a lot to learn

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FORT LAUDERDALE — “Experience matters.”

I wish I had a dollar for every candidate for office who told us this election cycle. Although the simple expression is quite true on the face of it, it depends on the type of experience.

I was frankly shocked by the lack of experience and unpreparedness of too many people who seem drawn to the prospect of holding an impressive title or the honors of being in the limelight without realizing the serious work it takes. need.

I have covered government at all levels in this state. This includes marathon hearings at Fort Lauderdale City Hall (back when they started at 8 a.m.); tense hearings over Broward school boundaries; and gabfests at the government center where the county commission sits in court.

But there’s no tougher job than being a member of the Florida Legislature, for anyone serious about government service. The issues are complex, the workload is inflexible, the partisanship is intense, and the commute is stressful, especially for South Florida lawmakers. Our expectations of Senate and House candidates are therefore higher.

On Friday, we held the last of more than two dozen online group interviews with candidates for this primary cycle. We were very impressed with the caliber of some first-time candidates. But not all.

A Democrat running for the Legislative Assembly had no idea how big the state budget was when we asked him this simple question. The number has been mentioned in dozens of news reports.

“Hmm,” said Kelly Scurry of Lauderhill. “It’s really quite high. It’s in the millions.

Millions?

Seriously?

The State of Florida spends millions in the blink of an eye.

The current budget is around $110 billion – with a B.

Scurry is a young lawyer with a resume that seems tailor-made for the Legislative Assembly, and perhaps beyond. He’s a sixth-generation Floridian, originally from Broward, an Eagle Scout, a graduate of Duke University who went to school at Oxford, and he also has a law degree from the University of Florida.

He is also the nephew of the late W. George Allen, UF’s first black graduate, a pioneering lawyer and civil rights leader, and one of the most respected black leaders in Broward’s history.

The purpose of this story is not to criticize Scurry, but to emphasize the importance of diligence and homework – which, judging by his impressive academic records, doesn’t seem to be a problem for him.

Broward’s legislative delegation has plenty of workhorses, but they can always use one more. No legislator can become an expert on every possible topic of legislation — and term limits have made that challenge much more difficult. Members therefore rely on each other for sound advice.

Scurry is one of three Democrats seeking an open seat in West Broward District 97. He may still be an exceptional legislator. It’s not setting the bar too high to expect a legislative candidate to know the size of Florida’s budget.

A second Democrat in the same race, Saima Farooqui, knew the answer. The third Democrat, Lisa Dunkley, did not accept our invitation to interview.

In another race, a school board candidate had no idea what the term “local effort required” was.

It is a basic component of public education funding, the largest component of every state budget. “RLE” is bureaucratic language for the amount of local property tax the legislature requires school districts to collect from property owners each year.

Tallahassee speaks in a language all its own, and anyone who aspires to serve there must master it sooner, not later.

In another candidate interview, a Palm Beach County School Board candidate could not identify the largest high school in the district she wants to represent.

A first-time congressional candidate from West Broward was puzzled by an obvious question: What has been the biggest demographic shift in the town of Weston in the past decade? (Answer: The growth of the Hispanic population, especially Venezuelans).

These are not trick questions. It’s basic stuff.

It’s true: experience matters.

Steve Bousquet is a Sun Sentinel opinion writer and columnist. Contact him at [email protected] or 850-567-2240 and follow him on Twitter @stevebousquet.

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