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Hillsborough

STATE HOUSE 47

A surprising challenge? A divisive GOP primary could leave incumbent state Rep. Kevin Ambler vulnerable against Libertarian candidate Kim Snow.

By JOSH ZIMMER
Published October 26, 2004

Usually, the race between an incumbent Republican and a neophyte Libertarian wouldn't raise many questions about the result.

But in the House District 47 general election, some say Libertarian candidate Kim Snow might be able to put in a credible performance against Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa.

Snow, the director of a software consulting company, is an example of the Libertarian Party's efforts to run fewer, but more capable, candidates. Snow's chances may have been enhanced by a divisive primary contest that Ambler barely survived against Bill Bunkley, a conservative Christian and fellow Republican.

Fueled by negative ads financed by doctors and homebuilders, a combative campaign descended into personal attacks. In the end, Bunkley vowed not to support Ambler. One of his biggest supporters, former state Sen. John Grant, predicted many Republicans would jump ship and work for Snow just to prevent Ambler from winning.

Snow, 31, says the division gives her hope she could pull off an upset victory. Ambler, 43, says he isn't worried, though he won his party's nomination by just 131 votes. It was the smallest margin of any incumbent Republican representative facing a primary challenge.

"I think my platform as a Republican is certainly more appealing to conservative and moderate Republicans than the Libertarian platform would be," said Ambler, who predicted a cleaner campaign this time. "I think I'll break 70 percent."

Here is Snow's simple scenario: Attract Bunkley Republicans and collect the votes from Democrats who never would support a Republican.

"I've been contacted by many people who normally vote Republican interested in helping my campaign," Snow said.

Republican Barbara Wilcox, a Bunkley backer, said she probably will vote for Snow, and may even campaign for the mother of three.

Ambler, a successful trial attorney who challenged outgoing House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, on medical malpractice reform, says he is a fiscal conservative with a moderate bent on most social issues. He supports stem cell research, but backs parental notification rights concerning minors seeking abortions.

Snow, a former registered Democrat, espouses the Libertarian mantra of less government and more individual say on personal responsibility issues, such as drug use and abortions.

However, she shies away from social issues, saying the public often sees those Libertarian views as reckless. Instead, she focuses on other causes, such as her support for privatizing government services, including health care, and giving counties more control over schools.

Her main issue, she said, is protecting individual property rights. She decried property taxes as an abuse of government power.

Ambler said he sees a larger basic role for government in people's lives, from education to health care.

He supports using standardized testing in schools, while adding that the process should be more sensitive to students with special needs and schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. If re-elected, he said he would look into providing catastrophic coverage to those without insurance and making drugs cheaper for senior citizens.

THE JOB:

State House District 47 includes the northwest corner of Hillsborough County, including the communities of Northdale, Lutz, Keystone and Carrollwood. Representatives serve two-year terms and earn $29,916 a year.

REPUBLICAN

KEVIN AMBLER , 43, is a lawyer specializing in commercial and business litigation, personal injury and medical malpractice law. He is former president of the Northdale Special Dependent Tax District and a former member of the Hillsborough County Charter Review Board. He is also chairman of the county bar's military liaison committee. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Cornell University and a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. He is married and has two children. ASSETS: Law practice, homes, stocks, bank accounts. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, car loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: Law practice, legislator's salary. E-MAIL voteambler@yahoo.com

LIBERTARIAN

KIM SNOW , 31, is a Florida native and director of a software consulting company with 40 employees. Snow graduated from Gaither High School, and has a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida in English education. She is married with three children. ASSETS: home, bank and stock accounts. LIABILITIES: mortgage and car loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, sole ownership of costume jewelry business E-MAIL: ksnow@tampabay.rr.com WEB SITE: www.votekimsnow.com

[Last modified October 23, 2004, 09:23:18]

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