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Republican Joseph Bensmihen set to challenge Lois Frankel for U.S. House

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Boca Raton businessman John “J.B.” Bensmihen will give two-term U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel a general election challenge that his camp believes has a serious shot in the Democratic-leaning district based in Palm Beach and Broward.

Bensmihen describes himself as a moderate Republican, and stresses that although the seat is historically Democratic, it is he that is best positioned to speak for the 22nd Congressional District due to his business acumen and pragmatic approach to politics.

“I am running for Congress for four reasons; first because the people of the 22nd District have no voice in the U.S. House right now,” said Bensmihen in a news release. “If elected I will be a voice of moderation and reason, a voice for the people of this district and, importantly, I will be in the majority where I will be in a position of leadership to get things done.”

The volatile issue of the United States’ complicated relationship to Israel also figures to loom large in this race. Unlike most of Florida, the Arab-Israeli conflict routinely wins or loses political campaigns in Broward and Palm Beach, particularly in Democratic primaries.

In an announcement trumpeting his campaign Bensmihen tried to draw a stark contrast between himself and Frankel, who attended Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu‘s unorthodox speech to Congress when he was invited at the behest of Speaker John Boehner.

“[W]hile the nation of Israel is under siege the people of the district, both Jews like myself and Americans who love and respect our closest ally, expect our Representative to defend Israel even if it means crossing her own party. Sadly our current Representative would not attend Israeli Prime Minister’s address to Congress without the ‘okay’ from her party bosses. That’s not the type of leadership the people of this district deserve or want.”

The district, which centers on the urban mecca that is the City of West Palm Beach skews toward Democrats by a margin of 41-30, but that leaves lots of independents likely up for grabs for a challenger like Bensmihen.

Before deciding to enter public life, Bensmihen founded and operated the large healthcare services firm Boca Home Care Inc. He currently serves as executive director of the Private Care Association. He has also several philanthropic credits to his name including a distinguished community service award from Florida Atlantic University and board positions on disabilities group Stand With Friends and the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation.

 

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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