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12th U.S. Congressional District

In this race, political experience lies on the side of the 26-year-old state representative. His opponent, a 50-year-old car dealer, has never held elected office.

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


In the race for U.S. House District 12, voters can choose between experience in life or experience in politics.

The political veteran in this case is 26-year-old Adam Putnam, a conservative Republican who already has spent four years in the Florida Legislature. He deflects questions about his age by citing his experience in Tallahassee.

Democrat Mike Stedem, 50, has never held office. But he uses his age to counter questions about his lack of experience in politics.

"I'm a grandfather of three, a father of three and I've got the gray hair that goes with it," he said before taking a gentle swipe at his opponent. "At a young age, could I identify with my grandparents on Social Security? I don't think so."

Stedem, Putnam and two write-in candidates, Rubye Harrison and Don Kennedy, are running for the seat being given up by Republican Charles Canady. He is stepping down to keep a pledge on term limits.

Stedem, a Ford dealer with a long history of civic activism, saw the seat as a chance to work nationally on issues he has struggled with locally, such as work force development and welfare reform.

"My life has been about solving problems. That's what I'm good at," he said. "That's what I want to go to Washington to do."

Putnam, citing the impact that national policies on immigration and illegal drugs have on the state, said, "In the Legislature, I was frustrated by congressional actions or inaction that resulted in Florida having to pick up the pieces."

A seat in Congress, he said, offers the chance to help develop the nation's agenda for years to come.

THE JOB

U.S. House District 12 includes most of Polk County, the eastern parts of Hillsborough and Pasco counties, part of Highlands County and all of Hardee and Desoto counties. A map of congressional districts appears elsewhere in this edition. Representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $141,300 a year.

REPUBLICAN

ADAM PUTNAM, 26, was raised in Bartow and graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in food and resource economics. He works in the family's citrus and cattle business, and since 1996 has served in the Florida House of Representatives for the District 63. He and his wife live in Bartow. ASSETS: orange groves, vacant land, stocks, mutual funds, money market funds. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, family business, dividends. WEB SITE: http://www. putnamforcongress.com.

DEMOCRAT

MIKE STEDEM, 50, was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. He graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in religion and history. He started working at his father's Ford dealership in 1971 and in 1983 started his own in Fort Meade. He has been married for 31 years and has three children. ASSETS: car dealership, real estate, stocks, mutual funds, IRAs, 401K. LIABILITIES: mortgages, margin account. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, rent payments, dividends. WEB SITE: http://www. friendsofstedem.com.

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