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Hernando

STATE SENATE 15

A LAKELAND FACEOFF: After years of representation from Hernando, this time district voters will choose between two Lakeland residents: Republican Paula Dockery and Democrat Carol Castagnero.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published October 26, 2004

It's Lakeland versus Lakeland in the race for state Senate District 15.

Hernando County's east side had been used to Brooksville politicians leading its battle cry. However, after the 2000 census, when the Legislature split the county into two Senate districts, roughly along Mariner Boulevard, Lakeland Republican Paula Dockery won the east-side seat unopposed in 2002.

This year, she has competition from Democrat Carol Castagnero.

Although Dockery's platform focuses on statewide issues, she also touts her work for Hernando.

Dockery says Hernando County has benefitted from her efforts to secure dollars for water projects. Also, she says, Hernando will benefit from the water conservation bill she sponsored with Rep. David Russell, R-Brooksville, which urges, although doesn't require, local governments to consider local water sources first in their planning.

She said she supports more local control, with school boards and county commissions assuming the largest responsibility for education, growth management and the environment.

Local control doesn't necessarily extend to state testing in schools, however. Dockery is a supporter of the state Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which her opponent opposes.

"Obviously, it's not a perfect test. But it has led to increased productivity and accountability in education," said Dockery, who said she wants to run for Senate president in 2008 or 2010.

Dockery's platform includes what she calls "integrity in government" when it comes to budgets and constitutional amendments. Dockery has been an opponent of raiding trust funds, especially the environmental trust funds, to balance the budget.

She also opposes the Legislature's efforts to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the Constitution, an issue during the last session. Dockery's husband largely funded a ballot initiative in 2000 that narrowly put a high-speed rail project into the Constitution.

Castagnero is a longtime schoolteacher and an advocate for guardian and elderly rights, and thus education and guardianship compose most of her platform.

Besides her No. 1 issue, dumping the FCAT, which she says is bad for children, families and public schools, she also wants to improve public school security and general education practices.

"I don't like to see anyone failing education," said Castagnero, who grew up in Renton, Pa., a coal mining town. "FCAT has to go."

Her platform includes what she calls elderly care, which would include strengthening regulation of nursing homes and encouraging children to look at alternatives to placing elderly parents in nursing homes.

Castagnero said she wants to push for more affordable health care for residents and increased enforcement of child support payments from deadbeat parents, but she has not offered specific solutions as to how the problems should be conquered.

THE CANDIDATES

REPUBLICAN

PAULA DOCKERY , 43, of Lakeland, ran unopposed for the state Senate in 2002. She was first elected to public office in 1996 as a state representative. She was born in Queens, N.Y., but moved to Florida when she was 6. She grew up in Broward County and moved to Polk County in 1986. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science and master's degrees in mass communications from the University of Florida. She was a senior underwriter at State Farm Insurance before working with her family businesses, which include reinsurance, property management, citrus and cattle. She is married. She is a member of the Lakeland Downtown Kiwanis Club, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra board of directors, the Polk Museum of Arts Advisory Board of Governors and the Polk County Education Foundation Board . ASSETS: stocks, IRA, money market account and homes in Lakeland, Tallahassee and North Carolina. LIABILITIES: car lease and mortgage. SOURCES OF INCOME: salary from Senate and as a director of a reinsurance company.

DEMOCRAT

CAROL CASTAGNERO , 66, of Lakeland is a retired schoolteacher who ran unsuccessfully for the Polk County School Board in 2002. She was born in Hermine, Pa., and grew up in the Pittsburgh area. She moved to Lakeland in 1988, working mostly as a teacher and as an advocate for guardian and elderly rights. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from Clarion State University in Clarion, Pa. She is a member of the Christina Rotary Club and a board member of Epilepsy Services of West Central Florida in Lakeland. She is married with one child and four grandchildren. ASSETS: home, rental property, stocks. LIABILITIES: credit cards, home mortgage. SOURCES OF INCOME: Social Security, rental properties.

THE JOB

State Senate District 15 includes the eastern half of Hernando County and parts of Sumter, Lake, Polk and Osceola counties. Senators pass state laws and approve the state budget each year. Senators are elected to four-year terms and are paid $29,916 a year.

[Last modified October 25, 2004, 12:26:01]

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