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District 53 Florida House

A former legislative aide faces off against a St. Petersburg City Council member for this seat.

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Charlie Justice worked for a state lawmaker for five years, which he says gave him first-hand experience of state-level public service.

A former legislative aide to Democrat state Rep. Lars Hafner, Justice now wants to replace him in the House District 53 seat.

Justice faces Republican Robert Kersteen, a St. Petersburg City Council member who has twice won voter approval. Kersteen says his experience in serving the public spans five decades.

"I have many steps, he has few," Kersteen said last month. Justice has a promising future and his time for state office is down the road, he said.

Justice, a native of St. Petersburg, said his interest in politics began in high school. As a teenager, Justice wore campaign T-shirts to the mall and his family hosted candidates in their home.

During Hafner's campaigns, the geography major worked his way up to manager and literally mapped out a strategy to reach voters.

He has carried that same grassroots method through his campaign. As of Oct. 1, Justice had raised about $24,000, compared with Kersteen's $61,130.

Justice says his campaign doesn't have to raise more money than Kersteen. But "we're definitely going to outwork him," he said.

The University of South Florida project coordinator wants to reduce class sizes, implement programs for recruiting and retaining more caring teachers, make prescription drugs more affordable, protect environmentally sensitive areas such as Clam Bayou and prevent the state from selling public records.

Kersteen also wants smaller class sizes, affordable prescription drugs and environmental programs that he's already supported to make St. Petersburg greener.

Unlike Justice, Kersteen supports vouchers, the system that allows public money to be used to send children to private schools.

Kersteen says he is a fiscal conservative, but he proposed a 7 percent tax rate increase in July to pay for more police officers. Neither the union nor the police chief was asking for more officers.

But Kersteen said neighborhood associations have. "The mayor just won't listen to the facts of life," Kersteen said.

THE JOB

State House District 53 includes west St. Petersburg, parts of Gulfport, Largo, South Pasadena and Seminole. A map of state House districts in Pinellas County appears on Page 19. State representatives serve two-year terms and earn $27,900 annually.

REPUBLICAN

ROBERT KERSTEEN, 63, is a St. Petersburg City Council member and a retired property manager for GTE Wireless, where he served for 35 years. He has lived in St. Petersburg since 1963. He has served on the St. Petersburg Environmental Development Commission, represents the city on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and is chairman of the Pinellas Planning Council. He is married and has two grown children. ASSETS: home. LIABILITIES: mortgage and loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary and pension. E-MAIL ADDRESS: nittanyrak@aol.com

DEMOCRAT

CHARLIE JUSTICE, 32, is the former legislative assistant to the Democratic lawmaker Lars Hafner, who left because of term limits. A native of St. Petersburg, he is a project coordinator at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus. After graduating from Boca Ciega High School, Justice received a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of South Florida in 1993. He has been on the board of directors for the Pinellas chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a member of Suncoast Tiger Bay Club and the USF Alumni Association. He is married. ASSETS: home, bank accounts. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. E-MAIL ADDRESS: VoteJustice@yahoo.com.

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