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A Times Editorial

For the Florida House

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 17, 2000

Charlie Justice for District 53

The candidates in the Florida House District 53 race have offered voters sharply defined choices. On education, campaign finance reform, gun control and protection of public lands, Democrat Charlie Justice and Republican Robert Kersteen hold divergent views.

Justice, 32, a project coordinator for the University of South Florida, supports accountability in public education but recognizes the current school-grading system is flawed and over-emphasizes test results rather than individual student improvement. Kersteen, 63, a St. Petersburg City Council member and former GTE Wireless executive, defends the current education program, which has drawn criticism even from members of his own party.

Justice would like to see limits on campaign spending to return credibility to the electoral process, and he is against the unlimited use of "soft money." Kersteen sees no reason to restrict campaign spending or limit "soft money."

Justice would reduce the number of military-style weapons sold, make gun shows obey the same laws as other sellers and require trigger locks to be included with gun sales. Kersteen is concerned about military-style weapons but fears gun laws more; he would close the gun show loophole, but he wouldn't require trigger locks.

Justice opposes last year's legislative attempt to give state-owned waterfront lands to private property owners, and he will fight any such land-grab legislation in the future. Kersteen defends the giveaway of some public land to private individuals. Kersteen actually opposes a popular state settlement that forced Lykes Bros. to open Fisheating Creek, a public river, to boaters and fishers. "If a steer attacks one of the anglers, you know who would be held responsible -- the Lykes family, of course!" he wrote in a Times questionnaire on the issue. Such a ludicrous argument shows that Kersteen cannot be trusted to protect public lands.

It is no accident that Justice holds reasonable, politically moderate views on the issues. For 4 years, he was legislative assistant to Lars Hafner when he represented the district. Justice is a natural fit for the job now that Hafner has stepped down because of term limits.

Kersteen, on the other hand, is politically out of step with the district.

The Times strongly recommends Charlie Justice.

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