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District 50 Florida House

The disparity between the candidates' ages - one is 45, the other 29 - has become an issue in this campaign.

By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


In the fight for the District 50 Florida House seat, Republican Kim Berfield, 29, has campaigned on her roots in the area.

"I think we've proven we are more in step with our community," Berfield said recently. "I grew up here."

Meanwhile, her opponent, Democrat Ava VanNahmen, 45, says she's the more seasoned person for the job.

"I've lived the issues," VanNahmen said. "If you see how I've put my kids on the school bus, used the services of Hospice for a dying father, and worked on projects with economic development in our communities, you can see a real difference in us."

Berfield counters that age shouldn't "dictate your ability to listen and serve as a voice."

Vying to replace Republican Rep. John Morroni, ousted from office by term limits, both women would fight for more state money to improve congested county highways. Both also want to improve Florida schools.

VanNahmen says Republicans have failed to adequately boost school spending. She is more critical of the state's new voucher program. She would increase funding for teacher raises, computer centers and high-tech job training, and she thinks legislators should substitute teach once a year to better understand classrooms.

Berfield supports spending more for teachers' pay, smaller classes and student computer training. She says teachers should be able to take state college courses for free to improve their credentials. And she wants private schools in the voucher program to face the same state testing as public schools.

Both women are courting seniors, too. VanNahmen criticizes Republicans for failing to provide prescription drug benefits to more than the state's poorest seniors. Berfield and VanNahmen think such benefits should be expanded.

On other issues, a contrast between the two is obvious. VanNahmen favors abortion rights, while Berfield won't say where she stands on abortion. Berfield supports the state's plan to end affirmative action. VanNahmen opposes it. Berfield believes local governments should have more control over development, while VanNahmen says the state needs to regulate growth.

VanNahmen contends Berfield, who works for the Contractors and Builders Association of Pinellas County, is influenced by special interests, since she has received significant campaign support from developers. But Berfield says she can still be objective.

"It's a balance," Berfield said. "I can look at the issues from both sides."

THE JOB

State House District 50 stretches from downtown Dunedin through central Clearwater, part of Largo, Pinellas County and north St. Petersburg. State representatives serve two-year terms and earn $27,900 annually.

REPUBLICAN

KIM BERFIELD, 29, works for the Contractors and Builders Association of Pinellas County, planning an annual parade of homes and industry trade show. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she also has been a reporter for Vision Cable and worked on numerous local political campaigns. Berfield was born in Texas and grew up in Clearwater. She has been involved in local transportation advisory task forces, Leadership Pinellas, Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin, the North Pinellas Republican Club and several other civic clubs. Berfield is single and lives with her parents, Sue and James Berfield. Her father is a former judge. ASSETS: car, savings accounts, retirement fund. LIABILITIES: student loan, car loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: contractors association salary.

DEMOCRAT

AVA VANNAHMEN, 45, and her husband have their own marketing consulting firm. She has handled public relations for Largo, the Tampa Port Authority and St. Petersburg Junior College. Early in her career, she was a radio and newspaper writer, and briefly, assistant press secretary for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Born in Kansas, she graduated from the University of Kansas and later got a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida. She has been a volunteer at her children's schools, a substitute teacher and board member for Directions for Mental Health and Tampa Bay Harvest. She is married with two sons. ASSETS: home, IRA, two rental properties, two cars, savings account. LIABILITIES: two mortgages, car loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: her business, rental properties, investments. WEB SITE: http://www.goavago.com.

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