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District 11 Florida Senate

While state Sen. Anna Cowin and Leslie Scales come from similar backgrounds, the distinction between the two isn't hard to find.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


State Sen. Anna Cowin survived a hard-fought Republican primary. Now she is trying to hold off a Democratic challenger and make her way back to Tallahassee for a second and final term.

Leslie Scales is determined to spoil that party. After serving eight years on the Marion County School Board -- and spending four years watching Cowin's performance in the Senate -- Scales believes she is well positioned to win this election.

"I think new blood and new ideas are good," she said.

The candidates are similar in some ways. Both are 54, have grown children and cut their political teeth while serving School Board assignments: Cowin in Lake County and Scales in Marion.

But their policy stands are different.

"I do think there will be a more distinct line between my opponent and me," Cowin said when asked how the general election would differ from her GOP primary fight with state Rep. Everett Kelly of Lake County.

She wasn't kidding.

Cowin helped draw up and pass Gov. Jeb Bush's A+

Plan, which calls for school accountability and vouchers for students who attend chronically failing schools.

"I think the idea of accountability is absolutely right," Scales said. But she said people clearly don't want public money used to support private schools.

"To me, that's not responsible," Scales said.

For that matter, Scales is no big fan of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, on which a school's grade is partially determined.

"It's not fair to take a snapshot in time," she said.

Cowin's most high-profile accomplishment in the Senate was passage of a child protection act that was prompted by the death of Kayla McKean, whose father was convicted in the killing. The new law shook up the Department of Children and Families.

"That made my whole Senate career worthwhile. It was all done with love, and not just mine," Cowin has said.

Scales said the tough law was bound to come up short.

"They said do it, but do it without the needed resources," Scales said of the Legislature. "Children and Families is in worse shape today than it was a year ago when she picked up the ball."

Cowin is anti-abortion and proudly leads the fight for a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, a measure that passed the Legislature and governor's office but has yet to survive court challenges. Scales said she would not attempt to change the status quo concerning abortion law.

Cowin also was one of the architects behind tax-free shopping days each summer.

THE JOB

Senate District 11 includes Citrus County east of County Road 491, Lake County, and parts of Marion, Sumter and Seminole counties. Senators serve four-year terms and earn $27,900 annually.

REPUBLICAN

ANNA COWIN, 54, of Leesburg, was elected to represent Senate District 11 in 1996, defeating Charles Dean. She serves as chairwoman of the Senate's Education Committee, among other leadership roles. Cowin served on the Lake County School Board from 1982 until 1990 and directed the Florida School Boards Association. She earned her bachelor's degree from the College of New Rochelle in New York and her master's degree from Fordham University. Cowin is married and has three grown children. ASSETS: home, condominiums, stocks, bank accounts, insurance. LIABILITIES: two mortgages. SOURCES OF INCOME: Senate salary, interest, dividends.

DEMOCRAT

LESLIE SCALES, 54, of Weirsdale, has served on the Marion County School Board for eight years and is a former board member of the Florida School Boards Association. She also has served as an elementary school teacher and substitute teacher in Alachua and Marion counties. Scales earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Florida and has served as board member for a number of charitable organizations. She is married and has two grown children. ASSETS: bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, rental properties, personal homes and vehicle. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCE OF INCOME: School Board salary, rent from rental property.

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