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A Times Editorial

VanNahmen in House District 50

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2000

The voters in Florida House District 50 -- which stretches from Shore Acres in St. Petersburg to downtown Dunedin -- will be choosing a legislator who will have to learn on the job. Both candidates, Democrat Ava VanNahmen and Republican Kim Berfield, are making their first run for public office.

VanNahmen, 45, helps run an advertising and marketing business with her husband. She has a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida.

Berfield, 29, works for the Contractors and Builders Association of Pinellas County, and has a bachelor's degree in mass communications from the University of Central Florida. She won a primary election against Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hooper, mainly by reminding voters of controversial decisions made by that board.

While both candidates say they are political moderates and have similar views on many issues, there are enough differences between them to give voters a choice. For example, VanNahmen favors campaign finance limits in exchange for matching public funds for legislative candidates; Berfield does not. On the A-Plus Education Plan, both would rely less on testing, but Berfield would require private schools accepting vouchers to be graded like public schools. VanNahmen would like to see more discipline in the classroom.

The most telling issue in this race involves growth management. VanNahmen thinks that new development should pay for the needed improvements in infrastructure through higher impact fees and that the state's growth management plan should encourage development (and redevelopment) in established urban areas and discourage urban sprawl that threatens agricultural land. Berfield wants to see more local control of growth management decisions, which is likely to end up meaning less control over growth.

There is little doubt that Berfield, who works for developers and has gotten financial backing from them, would be a development-friendly legislator, if elected. VanNahmen would take a more balanced approach in accommodating growth while protecting the state's quality of life.

The TIMES recommends Ava VanNahmen.

Opportunity to reply

The TIMES offers candidates not recommended by its editorial board an opportunity to reply. The candidate in the race discussed today should send in her reply no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday to: Philip Gailey, editor of editorials, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. E-mail:; fax: (727) 893-8675. Replies are limited to 250 words.

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