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A Times Editorial

Brennan for state House 51

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000

Two years after leaving her seat in the state House, Mary Brennan is still known to most people around Pinellas Park as Rep. Brennan. Part of the reason is that she has been a lifelong public servant, whether in elective office or community organizations. Here's a small sample: Girls Club of Pinellas Park, Soroptimist International, Family Services Center, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary Club, Pinellas Park Historical Society, Boley Centers for Behavioral Health.

Brennan, 46, is seeking her old job back, and she brings to this race the finest of legislative traditions. She was first elected in 1990, and over the course of the next eight years she rose in stature not by deal-making or playing to special interests but by becoming so knowledgeable that lawmakers had to listen to her. She became an expert on issues of aging, health care, mental health and education. She fought to protect nursing home patients, to protect the elderly from Baker Act abuse, to make sure the state was doing right by its poor and vulnerable, and she has been a forceful advocate of public schools. Her expertise in elderly concerns prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to cross party lines and appoint her as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman for the region.

Brennan, a Democrat, is challenging Republican Leslie Waters, 53, a former insurance company executive who served as vice chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee in her first term. Waters has shown enthusiasm for the job but an insufficient grasp of the complex issues facing Florida. She cites as one of her two major accomplishments in her first term a bill that allows insurance agents to get continuing education on-line. No wonder insurance interests have contributed at least $21,480 to her re-election.

In this matchup, the people of District 51 should be delighted to see Mary Brennan back on the ballot. She has fought for campaign reform, for openness and accountability in government, and for strong environmental protections, and has shown herself unafraid to challenge legislative leaders who would disagree. Many politicians like to fashion themselves as the people's candidate. Brennan truly is. We strongly recommend her.

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