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District 56 Florida House

Voters will pick between an incumbent who switched parties and a challenger who used to campaign for her.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Voters in this district that stretches from rural south Hillsborough to Carrollwood Village will choose between Republican incumbent Sandy Murman and a Democratic candidate with a strong background in law.

For the last two years, Murman has chaired the House Children and Families Committee. Murman has sponsored legislation allowing adopted children to contact siblings and strengthening oversight of child abuse investigations, and she helped increase funding for teenage drug education and Hillsborough County teachers' salaries. She won the funding to put nurses or health aides in every Hillsborough school.

Murman also sponsored the House version of a law that allows a woman to abandon her baby at a hospital or fire station without fear of prosecution, so fewer unwanted infants would be left to die in trash bins.

Her Democratic opponent is lawyer Henry Gill, a late entrant to the race after Betsy McCoy Benedict dropped out in late September. Gill used to campaign for Murman until she switched party affiliations.

Gill, a first-time candidate, says that if elected he will work to correct certain "colossal mistakes," made by his politician peers.

First, Gill argues, the Legislature never should have abolished the Board of Regents that oversees the university system. State universities now will be forced to lobby the Legislature individually, and the schools with the most political influence will likely find it easier to get state funding, he said.

Also, the Legislature's $1.5-billion surplus should not have been shipped back to taxpayers, Gill argues, but put toward building schools and expanding infrastructure in south Hillsborough, "so we're forward thinking."

"You can drive by any school in the state of Florida and see it surrounded by portables," Gill said. "There are double sessions in north Tampa schools. We need a big school construction program."

Gill wants to provide universal preschool for all 4-year-olds. Unlike Murman, he opposes school vouchers.

THE JOB

House District 56 includes Riverview, Gibsonton and Balm to the south and the Providence Lakes area of Brandon on the east. The district also takes in Davis Islands and part of South Tampa, then runs north along a narrow corridor to Carrollwood Village and the Lake Magdalene area. State representatives serve two-year terms and earn $27,900 annually.

REPUBLICAN

SANDRA L. "SANDY" MURMAN, 50, was born in Indianapolis, received a bachelor's degree from Indiana University and moved to Tampa 28 years ago. She is completing her first term in the Legislature. She has worked as director of development for the Children's Museum of Tampa, coordinator for community support for Metropolitan Ministries and a sales representative for several businesses. She also has served as president of the board of directors for the Children's Home and worked with other groups involved with children's issues. She is married and has a daughter. ASSETS: home, retirement account, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: representative's salary.

DEMOCRAT

HENRY GILL, 61, was born in Winthrop, Mass. He served 10 years' active duty in the Navy, and another 20 in the reserves. Gill got a law degree from Georgetown University. He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., then as an attorney for the Department of Energy. He came to Tampa in 1990 to head the legal division of the Resolution Trust Corp. and tackled Florida's failing savings and loans. For three years he was an assistant attorney general in central Florida in charge of civil litigation, and came out of retirement last year to join the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Gill is president of the Davis Islands Civic Association, secretary of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee and a member of the Sacred Heart Church Saint Vincent de Paul Society and several lawyer associations. He is married with three grown children. ASSETS: home, condominium, retirement account, savings. LIABILITIES: home mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: pensions, insurance company salary, rent.

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