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District 51 Florida House

Mary Brennan is running to regain the seat she gave up two years ago, while Leslie Waters says she'd like to stay.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


The race for state House District 51 pits incumbent Leslie Waters against Mary Brennan, who vacated the position two years ago for an unsuccessful run at the state Senate.

Democrat Brennan says her two years out of public office gave her a chance to work in positions -- such as interim director of Girls Inc., a non-profit program that hopes to inspire girls -- that offered a graphic lesson about the deficiencies of the state's long-term health care, mental health care and child care.

"I wish I'd had a lot of this information when I was in the Legislature," Brennan said.

The needs she saw combined with the lack of response to them from Tallahassee made her decide to run again, she said.

"All of these experiences make it more realistic to go back," Brennan said. "I'm running to continue to strengthen Florida's public education system, protect patients from unprincipled HMOs and to protect the elderly from abusive nursing home care."

Waters, the Republican, has held the seat for the past two years. A former insurance executive, she was chosen vice chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee.

One of her greatest strengths, she said, is her energy and continued involvement in the community. "I'm not the type of legislator who sits at her desk and clears e-mail," Waters said. "I go where the people are. I don't wait for them to come to me."

Waters said she is running for re-election because she wants to continue to make a difference.

Of the legislation she sponsored or supported in her first term, Waters said she is most proud of the Patient Protection Act of 2000 and another law that allows insurance agents to get their continuing education on-line.

The Patient Protection Act is a hodgepodge of measures that, among other things, requires HMOs to have doctors, rather than bureaucrats, make decisions to deny coverage. That, Waters said, preserves the link between doctor patient.

Waters said the continuing education law is important because it allows agents to stay in their offices to make more money and be more accessible to customers.

THE JOB

State House District 51 includes portions of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Kenneth City, Largo, Clearwater and Seminole. A map of state House districts in Pinellas County appears on Page 19. State representatives serve two-year terms and receive $27,900 a year.

REPUBLICAN

LESLIE WATERS, 53, is retired from management with Allstate Insurance. During her career with the company, she has worked in Allstate's human resources and community relations departments. She has been a chairwoman of a March of Dimes region and team captain for Paint St. Pete Proud. She is a board member of Junior Achievement of the Suncoast and Urban League of Pinellas County. She has served on the board of Brookwood, a young women's residence, Northside Hospital and Heart Institute, Florida Cancer Control and Research, and Partners for Highway Safety. She is a member of the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce and the Pinellas County Industry Council. She has served as the District 51 representative since 1998. While in the Legislature, she has served as the vice chairwoman of the Insurance Committee. She is married. ASSETS: home, rental property, cars, savings, money markets, profit-sharing, stocks, mutual funds, inheritance interest. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, dividends, capital gains, stock option earnings.

DEMOCRAT

MARY BRENNAN, 46, owns a public relations consulting business and most recently, was interim director of Girls Inc. of Pinellas, a youth development program. Before that, she was director of community development at the University of South Florida Department of Aging and Mental Health. She serves on the boards of Family Services Center, the Boley Centers for Behavioral Health, Habitat for Humanity and the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Pinellas Park Rotary Club and the Pinellas Park Historical Society. In May 1999, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to a three-year term as a long-term care ombudsman. She served in the Legislature from 1990-98, where she was deputy majority leader from 1990-92; chairwoman of the Aging and Human Services Committee from 1994-96; and chairwoman of the Women's Political Caucus from 1996-98. She is a native Floridian. She is single. ASSETS: house, car. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car payment. SOURCE OF INCOME: business.

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