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    A Times Editorial

    Candidate replies

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 28, 2000


    Democratic candidate for Hillsborough County state attorney

    On Nov. 7 you will vote for Hillsborough County's new state attorney. Tampa's police officers and Tampa's firefighters have concluded that my opponent and I are qualified, experienced prosecutors. In addition to being an experienced prosecutor, I have a proven track record of leadership inside and outside the courthouse. I have identified crime-related problems and created solutions.

    I led the effort to protect victims of crime, to help prevent violence in our schools, and in giving our young people alternatives to turning to crime. As an assistant state attorney, I organized a Restitution Court, which has collected tens of thousands of dollars for crime victims from criminals. After the death of two Tampa police detectives in 1998, I founded a nationally recognized joint effort among law enforcement, schools and hospitals to address gun violence and safety issues in our schools and our community. I have also helped to create jobs for local teens at the Police Athletic League, where they work closely with police officers.

    These are some examples of the leadership I have exhibited in our community. These and other accomplishments led to my recognition by our local Bar Association with the Jimmy Kynes Award and Red McEwen Award for outstanding service and leadership.

    We need a leader to prosecute crime and address crime-prevention issues in Hillsborough County. As state attorney, I will bring my experience as a prosecutor together with my proven leadership and problem-solving skills to serve the citizens of our county.

    Robert Foster

    Candidate for circuit judge, Group 25

    Thank you so much for your kind words in your Oct. 16 editorial concerning the Group 25 circuit judge race. I was very pleased to read that your editorial writers described me as "an experienced trial attorney" who has managed to balance my professional life and my community service.

    The reason this is important is because community service lies at the heart of my campaign and the very reason for my candidacy. I find the judgeship as a way to achieve that balance of professional life and community service.

    Your writers also noted my efforts with environmental causes and my volunteer work as a Little League coach. But what the editorial failed to mention is that I have also donated hundreds of hours of pro bono work, both for families in need and environmental causes.

    I was also pleased that your writers noted my deep roots in the Tampa community and my 25 years' experience as an attorney. Competency on the bench is one of the most important elements of being an effective and even-handed judge. That competency must be balanced with common sense, understanding, a calm demeanor and a reasonable application of the law.

    Your editorial noted that I would "serve competently on the bench." I wish that you had taken this a step further. I believe I would be a strong addition to Hillsborough County's judiciary and would bring experience, competency and integrity to the job.

    Bob Kersteen

    Republican candidate for state House, District 53

    I am Bob Kersteen, I have served our community for 37 years, and I am in step with the people of District 53. I have a proven record of integrity, open-minded leadership and careful use of your money.

    As a two-term St. Petersburg City Council member, I worked to lower the property tax rate by 13 percent, allowing working families to keep more of their own money.

    I led the fight to secure funding to save Clam Bayou and worked to preserve our environmentally sensitive lands of Weedon Island.

    As a past president of PTAs, I worked hand-in-hand with our teachers and parents to improve the education our children receive. And, yes, I do believe in accountability in our schools. I don't want to just scrap the present system; I want to work with parents and educators to make the system of accountability better.

    With my leadership, needy seniors now have property tax relief so they don't have to make the choice between food and medicine. When I get to Tallahassee, I'll fight to fully fund the Prescription Affordability Act for Seniors.

    During my 37 years of community service, I have been a soccer coach, director of the Jaycees, teacher at St. Petersburg Junior College and president of my church congregation. I did all of these things, and more, long before I ever sought elective office. I ask your support to allow me to continue to serve you as your state representative in Tallahassee.

    Ed Homan

    Republican candidate for state House, District 60

    As an orthopedic surgeon, I have been privileged to help thousands of patients over the 25 years I have practiced. Now, I want to help millions of patients statewide who are not happy with their health care choices.

    There is no doubt when you talk to anyone in this district that we need some changes in Tallahassee. When I ask my patients if they are better off today than they were 10 years ago in terms of health care services, they all say no. There is more emphasis now on managing costs than preserving quality. This trend needs to be reversed. As possibly the only physician in the Legislature next year, I will lead the effort for better health care choices.

    We also need changes in education. I support giving more resources to teachers, higher teacher salaries and a greater emphasis on reading programs in kindergarten through third grade. My first priority, however, will be to lower classroom sizes for our youngest students. It is imperative we get those youngsters up to speed on reading.

    Unfortunately, my opponent is not in step with the people of this community, perhaps because she has lived in this district for just two months. Her civic experience is largely in Ybor City, which has very different needs and values than Lutz, Temple Terrace, Mango, Thonotosassa and the rest of District 60.

    I urge everyone interested in better health care, more teachers in K-3 and continued efforts for public safety to vote for Dr. Ed Homan on Nov. 7.

    Rudolph 'Rudy' Bradley

    Republican candidate for Florida Senate, District 21

    The voters of Senate District 21 in Tampa, St. Petersburg and northern Manatee County have a clear choice on Nov. 7.

    Rudy Bradley has worked tirelessly and successfully to secure projects and funding for his district as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. He wrote the legislation and spearheaded passage of the first single-member district elections for the Pinellas County Commission, giving minorities and other residents a stronger voice in government. Rudy Bradley was the father of the Front Porch Florida legislation, which is bringing new hope -- and state dollars -- to our urban core neighborhoods, including St. Petersburg. Over the past two years, in fact, Rudy Bradley has secured $50-million in state funding to return to Tampa Bay to improve life in Pinellas, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

    Les Miller, unfortunately, has done little to help his Tampa district during four terms in the House. His legislative track record is almost non-existent. He has not secured his district's fair share of state funds for jobs, public safety, parks and better schools. Now, Les Miller wants a promotion while his district remains mired as one of the neediest communities in the state of Florida. Is this the kind of legislative "service" residents of Pinellas and Manatee counties can expect?

    The choice is clear. If you need someone to hold a press conference, Les Miller is the man. But if voters in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties want someone who will get their fair share of state assistance, then Rudy Bradley is the bipartisan choice on Nov. 7.

    Kim Coljohn

    Candidate for state Senate, District 21

    Thanks to the First Amendment, the St. Petersburg Times has the freedom to recommend any candidate it chooses. Regarding your recommendation in the state Senate District 21 race, your portrait of Kim Coljohn as an independent who is "not a serious alternative" couldn't be further from the truth.

    First, Mr. Coljohn is running with no party affiliation. Second, any citizen who cares enough to take the time, maneuver through the obstacles of the process, at times project awkwardness while bringing to the table a bevy of fresh, unscripted ideas deserves a few lines espousing his ideas, enabling the public to make up their own minds. Has the news media industry become a self-serving instrument of propaganda?

    Kim Coljohn is a progressive, thinking and open-minded crusader who has worked most of his life to ensure social, economic and environmental justice for all. He is truly the only alternative.

    Leslie Waters

    Republican candidate for state House, District 51

    It comes as no surprise that your editorial board chose to endorse my opponent in the race for House District 51. Your paper long ago canonized Mary Brennan (a former employee of the Times, no less), having looked the other way on her out-of-touch views and negative campaign tactics.

    What is surprising is the degree to which you will present such an unbalanced summation of the campaign for the District 51 seat in the Florida House.

    For example, you take time to cite her community work but fail to mention anything from my 25 years of community service, such as serving as the chair of the local March of Dimes organization or my work for the Pinellas County Urban League Board, Brookwood Young Women's Residence, the United Way, Paint St. Pete Proud, University of South Florida and St. Petersburg Junior College advisory boards.

    And while you refer to my opponent's work on social service issues, you conspicuously omit my efforts to better our community in this area -- such as my work in the Legislature to bring home $639,000 for local mental-health services, increased funding for the Nursing Home Ombudsman program and grant access for spouse-abuse shelters.

    In the two years I have served, I have already made significant achievements for our state and community. I sponsored the Patient Protection Act to ensure that medical decisions are made by doctors, not by HMO bureaucrats (which is how decisions were made while Mary Brennan served in the Legislature). I also passed landmark legislation to assure the public that insurance claims are protected if back-to-back hurricanes strike Florida.

    As important as these legislative accomplishments are, what really sets me apart from Mary Brennan is my dedication to constituent service. I have worked hard year-round since elected to be the most accessible representative possible, including taking my legislative office "on the road."

    But what is the most significant difference between my opponent and me is my belief in honest, positive politics. I won't play any of the tricks Mary tries -- they were ugly in 1998, and the people just don't want that kind of campaign. The voters deserve better than "Negative Mary" 's politics.

    My campaign is positive and shows pride about my many accomplishments since the people elected me to serve them. I invite the citizens of District 51 to "Catch the Waters Wave" for better government -- and positive campaigns -- by re-electing Leslie Waters. Thank you.

    Chris Gregg

    Candidate for state House, District 48

    I am Chris Gregg, candidate for state House District 48, and I am qualified to be your next representative! I have served my country in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as a flight medic. Additionally, I have spent the last several years familiarizing myself with the issues and concerns of the residents of House District 48. I take the responsibility of being a representative very seriously. While I have not held elective office, that in itself does not disqualify me. If that were true, no incumbent would ever be defeated. Apparently Gus Bilirakis believes I am qualified, as he offered me a position on his advisory board if I chose not to run against him.

    The reason I chose to run is that I feel the incumbent, Gus Bilirakis, has not represented the best interests of the voters. Among his biggest supporters are the tobacco industries and the greyhound dog-racing industry. On the other hand, I have taken, and adhere to, a pledge of not accepting contributions from special interests. By doing so, my allegiance is clear: I represent the interests of the citizens rather than the tobacco and greyhound-racing industries. Curiously, Gus Bilirakis co-sponsored a bill allowing for tax exemption of feed for greyhounds. Although there might be no connection between his acceptance of campaign contributions and his support of this legislation, you have to wonder whose interests he serves.

    Representatives are allowed to submit 10 bills. The 10 bills Gus Bilirakis submitted never addressed prescription drugs for seniors, long-term health care or the water shortage. Isn't it time the interests of the people rather than those of special interests were advocated?

    As further proof of the different attitudes Gus Bilirakis and I possess, witness his cavalier disregard for the voters as evidenced by his last-moment cancellation of the debate sponsored by the Florida League of Women Voters of North Pinellas County. This would have been an ideal opportunity for the voters to contrast our plans, hopes and dreams for District 48.

    In my heart, I believe that I can better represent the citizens of District 48. I am beholden to no one but them and will fight for their causes rather than those of special interests. I ask the voters of District 48 and the editors of this newspaper to visit my Web site at www.votegregg.com to learn more about the specific ideas I have, contrasted with Gus Bilirakis' voting record and history of campaign contributors. I urge the editors of this newspaper to reconsider their endorsement.

    Charlie Crist

    Republican candidate for education commissioner

    Although I appreciate your right to support the candidates of your choosing, I was disappointed in the rationale you offered when you endorsed George Sheldon for education commissioner. Sheldon's approach seeks to turn back the clock to a time when our public education system was more permissive and less accountable. Sheldon's policies are a warmed-over version of the same policies that trapped our kids in failing schools for decades. Compare them to Gov. Jeb Bush's A Plus Plan, which has eliminated "F" schools in Florida.

    You may also want to compare Sheldon's initiatives to my own. Sheldon supports building the education bureaucracy, while I support taking money from the bureaucrats and directing it into our classrooms. Under my Sharpen the Pencil Plan, I would redirect more than a half-billion dollars to increase teachers' salaries and give our kids exposure to the technology they must master for the new century. Sheldon supports decriminalizing marijuana and demanding less of our school children. Under my Safe Passage Plan, I would hold schools accountable for student safety and make sure parents are fully informed about the safety of their children's schools.

    Florida's voters have a clear choice in this election: Do they want to let George Sheldon revive the policies that have failed us, or do they want to help me build on what we have accomplished? I believe it's time to move forward into the new century and not cling to the bankrupt policies of the past.

    Victor Crist

    Republican candidate for state Senate, District 13

    Thelma Byram suffered her first stroke in the early 1980s. Her husband, Bob, cared for her in their Temple Terrace home until it overwhelmed him. Putting her in a nursing home was one of the toughest decisions he ever faced. Discovering the abuse and neglect she suffered there -- Bob found her with scratches and bruises and lying on soiled sheets -- was undoubtedly even worse.

    When Thelma Byram died in 1993, Bob fought for nursing home reform. After I met him, I took up his cause. For three years, I battled a handful of bad nursing home companies that don't want to provide adequate care or stop dumping patients to make a buck. Our efforts prevailed last year, ensuring better care and more accountability in Florida's nursing homes.

    That's why I went to Tallahassee.

    In eight years, I'm proud to have fought for real people and their very real problems. Whether it was my 10-20 Life handgun law, Three Strikes and You're Out sentencing, or stronger education through better funding and building centers of learning, I always listen to real people, not special interests.

    Bob Byram once said, "We want to keep our dignity."

    Keeping everyone's dignity is why I am in public service. And I'm proud that in my time in the House of Representatives, my legislation has given dignity to women's health, the working poor, underprivileged children, our seniors, schoolchildren and teachers, to name a few. I'll continue this work in the Florida Senate.

    Monte Belote

    Democratic candidate for state House, District 47

    If you think these issues are important -- a high-quality public education, child health and day care, stopping suburban sprawl -- and if you deserve a strong, effective voice in Tallahassee, please consider my experience: over 14 years (eight years as director) of the Florida Consumer Action Network, a nonprofit working for all Florida consumers over 14 years building coalitions together with nonpartisan environmental groups, and active member of PTA groups.

    Married for more than 10 years to Katrina Perez Belote of West Tampa, we live in Forest Hills. My wife and I attended public schools and universities. Our 7-year-old son, Jacob, attends Caminiti Exceptional Center in North Tampa, and we have been PTA leaders for four years.

    When I decided to run for the state Legislature, I vowed our campaign would be run the old-fashioned way -- by meeting as many of you at as many different events sponsored by as many different groups as possible -- and we've done that.

    I've been to numerous candidate forums (and have not seen the incumbent much), business, neighborhood and community group meetings -- from Tarpon Springs to Keystone, from Citrus Park to Carrollwood.

    I've asked about your concerns, and you have told me that fixing our overcrowded schools is far more important than giving away tax breaks to corporations and big business.

    My pledge is to continue to campaign directly with you from now through Election Day. Your questions and comments are welcome: mbelote1@tampabay.rr.com. Thank you.

    Frank Farkas

    Republican candidate for state House, District 52

    When choosing their state representative, the voters of District 52 have the unique opportunity of deciding between two candidates each with a record on which to be judged.

    And while my opponent Mrs. Fischer has avoided even discussing her disappointing record from when she served in the Legislature, I am proud of what I've accomplished in Tallahassee for our state and community and am eager to talk about the progress being made in Florida.

    I've worked to return over $1.5-billion to Florida's middle-class taxpayers, provide historic budget increases for our schools, teachers and students and create the Florida Forever land conservation program. I was a prime sponsor for the Patient Protection Act, which guarantees that doctors, not insurance bureaucrats, make important medical decisions.

    On the local level, I brought home $8.5-million to All Children's Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center along with many other worthwhile community projects.

    This has all been accomplished in under two years, along with sweeping reforms to our education and justice system, as well as greater protections for HMO patients and consumers.

    Much of what we've done could have been accomplished earlier if my opponent had effectively done her job. But frankly, she did little during her term in the House and that should indicate to voters what to expect of her if she were to return.

    In fact, I could not have said it better than your own editorial: "Fischer, wife of St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer, was not known as the most effective of legislators . . . and as a member of the minority in Tallahassee, she would not wield the same influence Farkas would as a member of the Republican majority." This opinion was echoed by a Miami Herald's survey that ranked Mrs. Fischer as one of the least effective legislators and recognized me as one of the most effective new lawmakers.

    It has been an honor to serve the constituents of District 52, and I hope that you will allow me to continue working hard on your behalf.

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