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Two challenge incumbent: Veteran Leslie Waters says she still has issues to champion while one of her challengers, Mike Smith, criticizes the "Waters wave" and the other, Matt Sullivan, supports the high-speed rail.

Published October 26, 2004

Incumbent Leslie Waters is facing a challenge from two men who two years ago ran unsuccessfully for the Pinellas County School Board.

Waters, the Republican, has represented District 51 since 1998. If she wins, it will be the last time she will serve in the House because of term limits. Her opponents are Democrat Mike Smith and Matt Sullivan, who has no party affiliation.

"There's business to be done and issues I still want to champion," Waters said. "There's going to be an economic boom in the state of Florida, and I want to be part of it."

Waters points to successes during her three terms: $3.8-million to help solve flooding at Park Boulevard and 49th Street N; an initiative to educate parents never to shake babies; and increased funding for the Highway Patrol and National Guard.

If re-elected, Waters said she wants to continue financial strengthening of the Highway Patrol and National Guard. She would also emphasize road improvements to ensure easy evacuation when hurricanes threaten and would work to stop consumer frauds, such as identity theft.

Smith said he is running because he thinks it is where he can make the biggest difference.

"I would be able to personally meet with my constituents and hear their problems and concerns first hand rather than sending an assistant," Smith said.

Smith charges that Waters is out of touch with her constituents and does not represent their concerns. He also criticized the "Waters wave." Waters urges people at many events where she appears to do the wave, which is like those seen at football games.

This lacks dignity and decorum, Smith said, and he vowed not to "make expressions that are best left to professional sporting events."

Sullivan said he is running to improve accountability in the Legislature.

"Their idea of checks and balances is to write checks until there is no balance," Sullivan said.

If elected, he promised regular television reports about his votes and what actions the Legislature had taken.

Sullivan sees his lack of a political party as a strength, saying Legislators make decisions based on what's best for their party rather than what is best for the people.

Sullivan supports the high-speed rail. By linking Orlando with Pinellas beaches, he said, more tourists might be encouraged to spend more time and money here.

In addition, the rail could be used as a quick method of evacuation when hurricanes threaten. That would be more efficient, he said, than bumper to bumper traffic on Interstate 4.


District 51 includes portions of Seminole, Pinellas Park, Largo, South Pasadena and the west Lealman area. Representatives serve two-year terms and earn $29,916 a year.


LESLIE WATERS, 57, is retired from management with Allstate Insurance, where she worked in the human resources and community relations departments. In September, she was appointed chairwoman of a Hurricane Preparedness Workgroup. She is former chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee and current chairwoman of the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee and former chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee. Last summer, she spent two weeks in Indonesia conducting training sessions in democracy for newly elected officials. She has represented District 51 since 1998. She is married. ASSETS: home, rental property, cars, savings, money markets, profit-sharing, stocks, mutual funds, inheritance interest. LIABILITIES: credit card. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, dividends, capital gains, stock option earnings. WEB SITE:


MIKE SMITH, 23, is a business consultant who specializes in customer relations. He graduated from Osceola High School in 2000 and attends St. Petersburg College, where he is majoring in business administration and education. He was a seven-year employee of Winn-Dixie, the last four as assistant store manager. He was rewarded for his management skills in 1998, 1999 and 2000. He is single and has no children. ASSETS: savings account and two cars. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: Consulting. WEB SITE: E-MAIL:


MATT SULLIVAN, 56, owns Help Line Medical Alert, a monitoring service for seniors. He and his wife also run a home day care. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Suffolk University in Boston. He is a member of First Baptist Institutional Church. He is on the Pinellas Juvenile Justice Council. He is coordinator for Justice 4 Kids. He has challenged the Pinellas County School Board on several issues, including desegregation. He is married and has three children, one of whom is adopted. He is a former foster parent. ASSETS: real estate, two cars. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. WEB SITE: E-MAIL:

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