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Congressman Brian Mast to serve second term focusing on the local issues

Mast takes District 18 in congressional race (WPEC)

Republican Rep. Brian Mast won the District 18 congressional race to be the district's representative in the United States House of Representatives Tuesday night.

Democratic candidate Lauren Baer, a former Obama administration official, ran against him.

Throughout the night Tuesday, the race was neck and neck in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties between Mast and Baer. Mast won Martin County early on. Before the numbers came in online for Palm Beach County, Mast announced his victory in front of a group of supporters with his family by his side. His campaign team mentioned Baer called him and conceded.

Mast started his speech thanking all of his supporters.

"Winning happens because of all the work you guys did," he said. "Signs, t-shirts and knocking on doors, sending text messages , speaking to your friends and giving me ideas to give my staff about what it is we can do on the waterways and how we can work together."

Mast said that's how he got the win and the accomplishments he achieved in his first term, the promises he made turned into action, especially when it comes to veterans and clean water.

Red tide and blue-green algae were the main issues at the forefront of the race as District 18 covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, as well as much of northern Palm Beach County.

Those counties have been plagued with issues of blue-green algae and red tide, which caused various beaches to get shut down in August and September and for people to report various health issues associated with the environmental growth.

Mast focused on his past dealings with algae and the legislation he worked on to get passed in Congress to fix the toxic algae problem plaguing the counties. He pointed to a part in the Water Resources and Development Act that allows for a reservoir to be created south of Lake Okeechobee that would reduce the need for water discharges.

President Donald Trump signed that bill into law, which focuses on the management of Lake Okeechobee and the reservoir south of the lake. He's hoping the Stop Harmful Discharges Act also gets passed, which modifies a previous law to now focus on health and human safety. He said he focuses on what matters locally, in District 18, and that's what gave him the upper hand.

"On these things that matter to our environment to our health to our safety and to our economy from top to bottom here locally, those are the things that I work on everyday and I think that's why people are giving me another chance to go out there and say yeah we'll let you stay in the fight," Mast said.

Baer, however, repeatedly said that Mast has not done enough in dealing with the issue of algal blooms. She called for stronger environmental protections and climate changes solution to help protect Florida's environment.

“He has been a proponent of the EAA Reservoir and stopping discharges,” she said. “But what he hasn’t been willing to do is get at the root source of our problem.”

The two also differed on their approach to healthcare, taxes, gun control and the affordability of college.

Mast believes in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, while Baer wanted Congress to figure out a way to lower premiums and deductibles.

He said having an office in the VA hospital was a huge win, to be able to hear the needs to local veterans. That's something he wants throughout the state.

Now, Mast said he plans on continuing what he started, working to get the funding for the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, bringing that to fruition, as well as working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lower Lake Okeechobee in the upcoming dry season, so residents don't have to worry about toxic blue-green algae coming into the area next summer.

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