Two Democrats in mix for state House primary

Nine people are vying in District 43 primaries.

Published May 25, 2007

Calling all voters in High Point, Brookridge, Weeki Wachee Gardens and Weeki Wachee North!

The June 5 primary for Florida House District 43 is less than two weeks away. It's time to pick somebody new to represent you in the state Legislature. After all, if you don't, your neighbors will do it for you.

Low voter turnout is expected, making the race especially volatile. Just a few votes could decide it.

The district includes all of Citrus County, southern Levy County, and a slice of north central Hernando County.

Hernando County's piece of District 43 includes 4,835 Democrats and 4,829 Republicans; Citrus County has an estimated 40,158 Republicans and 35,978 Democrats; Levy has 969 Democrats and 855 Republicans.

A series of political dominoes opened up the seat. First, state Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, resigned from the Senate to take a seat on the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities. Then, District 43 state Rep. Charlie Dean resigned his seat to run for the empty Senate spot.

Nine people have crowded into the two primary races for House District 43. (H. David Werder is a write-in candidate, and "Taxi" Dave Gregory has no party affiliation, so they won't appear on the June 5 ballot.)

The general election is scheduled for June 26. The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday.

This is the first of two stories on the candidates, focusing on the two Democratic candidates.

Sophia Diaz-Fonseca

Diaz-Fonseca, 48, resigned as president of the Inverness City Council during her first term to make a bid for the Legislature, saying "it's the next step in expanding my service to this community."

Diaz-Fonseca moved to Citrus County in 1998. She said she dove right into the community, getting involved with groups like the county's Historical Society and later the Citrus County Partnership in Health Task Force. She draws her income as a partner in a property management company that owns the prominent Masonic Building in Inverness in addition to being supported financially by a number of investments and a large trust fund. She is married to a physician and has two teenage children.

As a lawmaker, she said she won't stray far from the principles she promised in her first campaign: access, dedication and consensus building. As a council member, the New York native hosted frequent coffee meetings with citizens, which she plans to continue if elected. She also said she would work across party lines as she pushes hard for the issues she cares the most about, such as growth management and health care.

While on the council, she also worked on water issues as a member of the Withlacoochee Regional Water Supply Authority. She worked on affordable housing with the Florida League of Cities. All this experience, she said, means less of a learning curve in Tallahassee.

Patricia Lee Kittleman

Kittleman, 72, says she's worked on campaigns since 1962. (One of her three former husbands was a state legislator in Maryland until he died in 2004. His son has the seat now.) Kittleman said she decided to run because she didn't see a capable leader in the field of candidates for the House 43 seat.

Kittleman complains that newspapers make much of her age, but she said it gives her the advantage of experience. When she feels strongly about something, she punctuates her sentences with, "Got it?"

She lived most of her life in Washington, D.C., and Maryland and moved to Florida in 1980. She has three grown children, a second home in Tennessee, and a house in Sugarmill Woods. She lives on her Social Security check, some investments, and a small pension from the World Bank, where she worked from 1970 to 1980.

Kittleman said she would be a "full-time" legislator, unlike her opponent, who has teenage children and family obligations.

She thinks Floridians should protect their water and that the state should "fully fund" Citizens Property Insurance and health care programs for children. Property taxes should be rolled back to 2003 levels, and the Save Our Homes cap should be portable.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or (352)754-6127. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.


District 43's election at a glance

What's happening?

The primary for state House District 43 will be June 5.

Who's running?

There are five Republicans and two Democrats.

Is that my district?

District 43 includes High Point, Brookridge, Weeki Wachee North, Weeki Wachee Gardens, and other voters. This affects the following eight Hernando County voting precincts: 13, 18, 24, 25, 49, 50, 53, and part of 3. If you don't know if you should vote in District 43, or don't know where to vote, call the Hernando County Supervisor of Elections at (352) 754-4125.