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District 21 Florida Senate

The two major-party candidates in this district agree on the troubles facing residents and even on the basics of the best approach to a solution.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


The neighborhoods strung together to make up state Senate District 21 are among the poorest in the area.

The needs, say the candidates who want to represent the district in the Florida Senate, are obvious.

The children of the district need stronger educations to escape poverty. Their parents need better jobs to provide for their families. And they all need health care -- regardless of whether they have insurance through their employer.

Both of the major-party candidates -- Republican Rudy Bradley and Democrat Les Miller -- are on the same page when it comes to defining what ought to be done for their constituents in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.

"Education is the No. 1 issue," Miller said. "We need to increase teacher salaries, reduce classroom sizes and make sure our children are able to read and that they have books to take home."

Bradley said he favors making vocational education a more realistic path for children who are not planning to go to college when they leave the public school system, and strengthening the curriculum for those who are continuing their educations.

"I think an education should lead either to a job or a profession -- something that will allow our children to become part of the economic fabric of our country," Bradley said. "We are doing an excellent job of educating 20 percent of the kids and a poor job of educating the other 80 percent."

Both Bradley, from St. Petersburg, and Miller, from Tampa, hold seats in the Florida House. Miller is the House minority leader. Bradley gained attention 16 months ago when he left the Democratic Party.

At political forums, Bradley frequently mentions the projects he managed to bring home from Tallahassee as a Republican. During the last session, he got more than $17-million in projects including a minority AIDS prevention project in St. Petersburg and $1.4-million to help a policy planning institute at Florida A&M University.

Democrats are quick to call the projects a housewarming present from a Republican-dominated Legislature, which was only too happy to take him from the Democratic Party.

The third candidate in the race, Kim Coljohn, 47, who has no party affiliation, comes at the race from a different tack.

Coljohn, who has not held public office, calls himself an environmentalist in favor of strict growth management laws. He appears at candidate forums sporting a straw hat, tropical-theme shirts and a braid that reaches halfway down his back. His opponents typically are decked out in suits and ties.

"I intend to stand up for social, economic and environmental justice for all," says his statement on his Web site.

Coljohn, of Tampa, has had difficulties over the years. In 1998, he filed for protection under Florida's bankruptcy laws. Bankruptcy records show about $37,000 in credit card debt, which Coljohn said he racked up in cash advances -- money he needed to pay off debts incurred in day trading in the stock market.

He also has a criminal history from what he calls his "drunk and stupid" days.

In one incident, he was charged in 1993 with firing into a building and convicted the following year. He said a group of youths in his neighborhood had repeatedly tripped a burglar alarm. It went off at 3 a.m., he said, and he shot it in disgust.

"Me and my good buddy Jim Beam went out there," he said. "Nobody was around, so I just shot the burglar alarm. I was getting tired of it."

THE JOB

State Senate District 21 includes parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties. Senators serve four-year terms, but because of reapportionment, the seat is likely to be up for re-election in 2002. The job pays $27,900 a year.

REPUBLICAN

RUDY BRADLEY, 54, is the outgoing state representative for House District 55. A year ago, he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party, and in November he announced he would give up the House seat to which he was elected four times as a Democrat. He is a recruiter for the Pinellas Technical Education Center. A St. Petersburg native, he received a bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Tampa in 1969 and a master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan in 1979. He is married and has four children. ASSETS: house, vacant land, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. WEB SITE: http:// www.bradley.campaignoffice.com.

DEMOCRAT

LES MILLER, 49, is the outgoing state representative for District 59 and the House minority leader. He is a manager for minority business enterprise development for Tampa General Hospital. Born in Tampa, he received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of South Florida in 1978. He is a life member of the Tampa Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and is on the Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League Board of Directors. He is married to Gwen Miller, a Tampa City Council member. They have four children. ASSETS: real estate, stocks and bank accounts. LIABILITIES: loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

NO PARTY

KIM COLJOHN, 47, has held a host of jobs including musician, running a pizza restaurant in Tampa and driving a truck. Currently, he manages a commercial rental property and is a handyman. Born in Ohio, he moved to Florida in 1976. In a candidate questionnaire, he claimed to have received a bachelor's degree in government and sociology from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, in 1975. The university has no record of his having received a degree, although records show he attended. He is a member of the Sierra Club and Common Cause. He is single. ASSETS: none. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. WEB SITE: http://www. geocities.com/bazzario/

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