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    Former House member to seek state Senate seat

    By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 14, 2002

    Dennis L. Jones, who spent 22 years in the Florida House of Representatives before term limits forced him out in 2000, has announced plans to run for the state Senate.

    "I think experience is basically what I'm running on," Jones said. He is running in new Senate istrict 13, which extends from St. Pete Beach to Dunedin.

    Jones, 61, a chiropractor, rose to the position of speaker pro tempore in the House. He points to a variety of awards and leadership positions garnered during his two decades in the Legislature.

    He says he urges voters: "When you listen to a politician, listen to what they say and see what they do."

    Jones, a Republican, said his crowning achievement was helping to pass a law in 2000 that established a firm funding source and criteria for doling out $100-million per year in state and federal money for beach renourishment projects.

    Some criticize these multimillion-dollar projects to put sand on beaches as welfare for the rich. But Jones, who says he was nicknamed the "the Sandman," said it provides a powerful boost to Florida's economy.

    "A third of our economy is governed by our beaches," he said. "More people go to our beaches than go to Disney World, and that's a fact."

    He said he also has worked hard on education, health care and environmental issues in the Legislature.

    Though he has been a member of the GOP's legislative leadership in Tallahassee, Jones said, "I've never been one to rubber-stamp a governor's agenda." Unlike Gov. Jeb Bush, for example, he opposes school vouchers.

    Jones added: "I'm not timid about it -- we need to pay teachers more money." How to pay for it? "Obviously, that's big bucks. I don't have an answer for it yet, but I'm committed to try."

    Asked whether he would support a tax increase to increase education funding, Jones said, "I've supported tax increases in the past where they were warranted."

    Jones, who lives in Treasure Island, is married and co-owns Community Care Medical Center in St. Petersburg with his son. His daughter is deceased. Joanna Kennedy, a Democrat and Indian Rocks Beach city commissioner, also plans to run for the seat.

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