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District 61 Florida House

This year's race for the seat is a rematch of last year's special election between Ken Littlefield and Larry McLaughlin.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Last year, Ken Littlefield and Larry McLaughlin squared off in a special election for the District 61 state House seat.

Seems like old times.

This time, Littlefield, a 56-year-old Dade City Republican, is the incumbent, but little else has changed. He's hammering at the same GOP core values of less government and more personal responsibility he did in his first run, and he's even more intent on being a Tallahassee insider. The best way to serve his constituents is to stick with House leadership, he said.

McLaughlin, 44, is the challenger again but with a noticeable difference. This time, he has backing.

McLaughlin's campaign was outgunned about 13-to-1 in fundraising in the 1999 special election. He had few contributions that weren't from family and friends.

This time, he has union money behind him. And while he didn't raise enough to overtake Littlefield's coffers over the summer, he did put together a list of Hillsborough donors including the Iron Workers, Piledrivers and Millwrights, Sheetmetal, Teachers and Teamsters unions.

Littlefield says the experience he gained in Tallahassee the past two sessions added knowledge to his "toolbox," an inventory of understanding that he said grows with each budget negotiation and conference committee. He said he has a better understanding of state government and power that will grow and continue to help his district.

The key, he said, is getting close to the real power in state government, and that isn't done by making radical promises.

"If you believe there are more than two or three people who actually run that place, you are naive," he said.

Littlefield also points out that because he was elected in a special election and took his seat days after the session began, the first two-year term doesn't count toward the state's four-term limit. If he keeps winning elections, he will be allowed five terms, making him the most senior member of the House in his final term.

And that, he said, would be a big benefit for his district.

His core issues include spending less money on school bureaucracy and more on teachers and schools, even if that means firing Tallahassee-based officials. He supports Gov. Jeb Bush's A+

Plan for education.

Growth management is the issue he sees as a close second, although he favors local solutions when possible.

McLaughlin believes he can better represent the people of District 61, and he opposes much of what has gone on in Bush's term.

McLaughlin, employed by the University of South Florida, cites schools as a key need, and his campaign coffers reflect donations from teachers and teachers' unions. He said the A+

Plan of rewarding schools that perform well on standardized tests while punishing administrators whose schools fail is wrong.

He favors more resources for everything from preschool to university programs, but says he can do it without new taxes.

He also said growth is important, and said local governments have not done enough to react or control the area's growth.

"Them seem to be overly influenced by builders and developers," he said.

Limiting growth might actually be better for the county's finances, he said. A limited supply of new houses would raise property values of existing homes, increasing the tax base without increasing demand for services.

The District 61 seat was created after the 1990 census. It has never been held by a Democrat.

THE JOB

State House District 61 includes parts of eastern, southern and central Pasco County as well as eastern and northern Hillsborough County. A map of Florida House districts appears elsewhere in this edition. State representatives serve two-year terms and receive a salary of $27,900.

REPUBLICAN

KENNETH W. "KEN" LITTLEFIELD, 56, moved to Dade City from Ohio in 1982 and has been a member of the state House of Representatives since winning a special election to replace his brother, Carl, in March of last year. He serves on the House Reapportionment, Elderly Affairs, Government Operations, Financial Services, Education Innovation and Health and Human Services appropriations committees. From 1982 until he sold the business last year, Littlefield was owner and operator of Littlefield's Furniture in Dade City. He has also served as pastor of Assembly of God churches in Ohio. He has endorsements from police and firefighters organizations, builders, chambers of commerce and medical agencies. He was born in Mississippi and earned a bachelor's degree from Central College in Springfield, Mo., in 1967. He is a member of several area chambers of commerce, the Dade City Crescent Theater project and the Wesley Chapel Kiwanis club. He is also on the board of directors of Main Street Zephyrhills and the United Way of Pasco. He is married. ASSETS: commercial property. LIABILITIES: bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: rental property, legislative salary.

DEMOCRAT

LARRY W. McLAUGHLIN, 44, moved to Zephyrhills from West Virginia four years ago. He is the director of program development in the educational outreach division of the University of South Florida, working with market research to consult with academic departments. He previously worked for West Virginia University. He has claims endorsements from teachers' and other unions. He earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1981 and a master's degree in education from West Virginia University in 1989. McLaughlin attends First Baptist Church in Dade City and is a member of Rotary International and the University Continuing Education Association. He has served on the Zephyrhills High School advisory council. He is married and has three school-age children. ASSETS: home. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

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