Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey squares off against Democrat Joanne Terry

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Political veteran Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, will seek to fend off a challenge from Democrat Joanne Terry in the Nov. 8 general election for his 8th Congressional District seat.

Posey is vying for an eighth two-year term as the representative for his district, which includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties, as well as part of eastern Orange County. Members of Congress have a salary of $174,000 a year.

Standing in Posey's way is Satellite Beach resident Terry, a retired satellite systems engineer and electoral novice who first cut her political teeth volunteering for the campaign of Democrat Jim Kennedy, who unsuccessfully challenged Posey two years ago.

Terry won an Aug. 23 Democratic primary, defeating Danelle Dodge, 54.57% to 45.43%, for the opportunity to challenge Posey in the Nov. 8 general election.

There currently are 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, with three vacancies. Posey's district is heavily Republican, based on voter registration figures.

Posey is largely sticking to the same script that many other Republicans nationwide have chosen as their battle cry heading into the November contest, critical of the Democratic president and the Democratic majority in Congress.

That includes a focus on the economy — especially inflation, which is hovering around 8%. Posey also has focused on many issues that have long rallied the conservative base, such as immigration and border security.

While railing on President Joe Biden, Posey has largely stayed away from the one issue that has been the hotbed of Republican politics, refusing to answer the question during a recent FLORIDA TODAY forum about whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate, and if elections in the U.S. are secure.

Posey had voted to refuse to certify the results. Just hours later, however, he showed a more conciliatory tone after the unsuccessful attempt.

For her part, Terry has stuck with what could be considered a local campaign strategy meant to target the Democratic base of the area, while also appealing to the more moderate faction of the Republican and no party affiliation voters.

She has said she will bring federal money to the area for infrastructure and will work with local partners to address problems in the area.

The fundraising numbers demonstrate just how difficult it is to beat an incumbent representative in a head-to-head matchup.

As of August, Posey raised nearly $810,000, while spending almost $430,000.

Terry raised almost $40,000, and spent about $28,000 of it through August.

That dynamic is factoring into strategic plans of the two candidates, which has been marked by contrasting styles and priorities, with Posey and Terry emphasizing different points they hope will resonate with voters.

Posey focuses on experience

Posey has both a party and incumbency advantage that has the potential to carry him to another term.

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“It’s the honor and privilege to serve the community I grew up in,” Posey said. “I have dedicated most of my adult life to serving my community and making sure government is transparent and accountable to the people. I believe I have the necessary experience to continue that fight in Washington — and, clearly, there is more work to be done.”

The current congressman has established roots in the area going back decades, having held multiple elected positions locally.

He got his start in public service in 1982 as a Rockledge City Council member. After serving for 10 years, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1992, then was elected to the Florida Senate in 2000. He spent eight years there before getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey is seeking his eighth two-year term in Congress.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey is seeking his eighth two-year term in Congress.

Posey has been in Congress since then, getting reelected six times.

As a congressman, Posey serves on the House Financial Services Committee and two of its two subcommittees — the Consumer Protection & Financial Institutions Subcommittee and the Housing, Community Development & Insurance Subcommittee.

Posey also serves on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and its Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee.

As one the longer-serving members of Congress, Posey contends that he has a record to run on.

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“As the founder and a co-chair of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, I have worked to ensure the National Estuary Program is fully funded, and grants are available to estuaries with critical needs such as our lagoon,” Posey said.

He also said he co-sponsored legislation protecting the water supply from forever chemicals and continues to protect the water supply and cleanup contamination along beachside communities.

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey's district includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties and part of eastern Orange County.
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey's district includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties and part of eastern Orange County.

As for the coming general election, Posey has stuck to the very same talking points of many of his Republican colleagues, who have largely aligned themselves with the talking points of former President Donald Trump, while targeting the economy as the main issue.

“I am unapologetically, 100%, America-first,” Posey said. “We must stop inflation and turn this economy around. We need to go back to $2 per gallon gas, fair grocery and housing costs.”

Posey tied the problem of high inflation to energy.

“The No. 1 thing we need to do to stop inflation is stop the war on fossil fuels,” Posey said. “That is what is causing our gas and energy prices to go up so much. And you don’t have a product in the room you are sitting in, nor does anybody watching this, that doesn’t have a lot of fuel and energy cost included in it.”

Posey then went on to decry the Inflation Reduction Act that recently became law, saying, “We don’t need 87,000 more IRS agents. We need 87,000 more border police to stop the invasion at our southern border, or we could use another 87,000 people in the Veterans Administration to deal with the backlog of veterans claims and help veterans getting the services they have earned and are entitled to.”

Others have said that figure is an incorrect characterization of the recently signed bill. The Inflation Reduction Act does include up to $80 billion in increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service over the next decade, but only a portion of it, about $45 billion, would be for tax enforcement services to reduce the tax gap, according to the Congressional Research Service.

About $25 billion would fund operations support services such as rent, facilities, printing and storage. Another $3.2 billion would be appropriated for taxpayer services to assist with filing taxes and account services, prefiling assistance and education.

In fact, the 87,000 was not even part of the legislation, but was stated in a report highlighting how the agency is understaffed.

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Posey also weighed in on the recent decision by the Supreme Court overturning the decision in Roe vs. Wade, thus nullifying a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“I understand what they said,” Posey said referring to the justices of the Supreme Court. “They read the Constitution, and they said there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to regulate abortions.”

Posey however, has largely stayed away from the topic of election security and voter fraud. Choosing not to directly answer the question when asked about it during FLORIDA TODAY's forum, Posey pivoted instead to the election reform bill he helped pass after the 2000 election.

When asked again about it, he said that he voted against counting the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. He referred to statements from his colleagues in those states.

"I objected to counting electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania because my colleagues from those states believed an investigation of voting in those states was warranted, but refused," Posey said. "The U.S. Constitution says state legislatures make election laws, not unelected state bureaucrats or partisan courts, as was the case in those states."

He took the time to declare himself as pro-life, except in instances of rape, incest and the health of the mother.

“That policy, in the future, is in the hands of the Florida Legislature, and the voters considering a constitutional amendment,” Posey said. “Congress should be focused on issues that are in their domain.”

Terry pushes centrist campaign

Going up against him is Terry, a former satellite systems engineer who retired just before turning 50.

Terry it is: Joanne Terry wins Democratic primary for Congress, will face Posey in November

She volunteered for Jim Kennedy campaign when he tried to unseat Posey two years ago. She crunched the numbers as a data analyst before getting promoted to become the campaign manager.

Joanne Terry, a Democrat, is seeking to unseat incumbent Bill Posey in the 8th Congressional District race.
Joanne Terry, a Democrat, is seeking to unseat incumbent Bill Posey in the 8th Congressional District race.

Terry then volunteered for the League of Women Voters, informing voters of the issues, as well as the local Democratic Party to assist candidates with their election campaigns.

For this cycle, however, she became a candidate herself.

To win, Terry must operate a much-different campaign, simply because of the electoral disadvantages she has been handed.

In Brevard County, Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 65,000 voters. In Indian River County, Republicans have more than 27,000 more voters than Democrats.

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“Democrats, Republicans and independents, after 14 years and seven terms of Posey, he is not an overly popular representative, but a lot of people here, they think any Republican is better than a Democrat,” Terry said.

To overcome that, she will have to win over independents and the more moderate Republicans who have reservations about giving Posey another chance.

To secure the votes she needs, Terry has been operating a centrist campaign designed to reach the more moderate voters, regardless of party affiliation.

“I am not a Democratic socialist,” Terry said. “In fact, my husband is a registered Republican, and he is more liberal on some fiscal issues than I am. I am not that Democrat that people see on television.”

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Her plan is to focus on the issues, instead of ideology, to solve constituents’ problems in the district.

One is the environment.

She wants to address the health of the Indian River Lagoon, especially the infrastructure problems that led to officials releasing raw sewage in the waterway because the treatments plants to do not have the capacity to deal with wastewater.

Joanne Terry, a Democrat running for Congress, lives in Satellite Beach.
Joanne Terry, a Democrat running for Congress, lives in Satellite Beach.

Her second policy focus is growth and development.

“I believe we don’t want all our green spaces to be overrun by big condos, hotels and resorts,” Terry said. “That is not only bad for our quality of life, but it is bad for flooding.”

Another aspect of the plan deals with the economy.

“The next one is making sure that our economic growth inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient,” Terry said. “It feels like we are growing so fast, and a lot of people are coming in from other areas of the country, which is causing all our property values to rise, and it is causing our homeless population to rise as well because people are getting priced out of their homes.”

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To fix that, Terry said she will become a partner in the community, bringing in federal money to the area to address the problems people are experiencing in Brevard.

Terry has criticized Posey for voting against the infrastructure spending bill that was passed in November 2021.

“He voted against the Defense Authorization Act,” she said. “I worked in the defense and aerospace industry. We always held our breath every year, because, if that act doesn’t get passed, there could be layoffs in the district. And he has voted against it.”

In terms of inflation, Terry said the reason that prices are rising because of the unique set of circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

Terry said she is staunchly pro-choice.

“Whether you believe abortions are morally wrong as a religious and personal decision, it should be made by a woman, her faith, family and her physician, and not the government,” Terry said. “No level of government should be inside a woman’s body, especially in America.”

Ralph Chapoco is government and politics watchdog reporter. You can reach Chapoco at rchapoco@floridatoday.com and follow him on Twitter @rchapoco.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: GOP incumbent Posey, Democrat Terry face off for seat in Congress