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District 62 Florida House

The candidates agree - voters want action on education policy first and foremost.

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Voters in Florida's House District 62 will choose between a retired administrator making his first bid for office and an incumbent who has raised 10 times more money than his challenger.

John Wayne Clark, 57, wants to unseat Republican Rep. Johnnie Byrd. To do that, he's walking door-to-door, introducing himself to voters and hoping they view his years of work in the state's social services agency as experience enough for Tallahassee.

Byrd, 49, has held the District 62 seat since 1996. He chairs the Judiciary Committee and served as the Republican Majority Whip. For the past 12 years, he has worked as a lawyer for Trinkle, Redman, Swanson, Byrd & Coton in Plant City.

Both candidates say voters tell them education is the issue most on their minds. "Education and HMOs," Clark said when asked what voters want to talk about. "They're not happy with either."

Byrd cites his wife's job as a teacher and the experience of his three children in public schools as the basis for his knowledge about that issue. His priorities if re-elected, he said, would be to concentrate on education. He would like to help schools achieve smaller class sizes and pay teachers more.

Health care and the price of prescription drugs are also mentioned often in the district, said both men.

"I'm seeing a lot of really poor, elderly people who can't even afford electricity in this heat," said Clark. "They also find it complicated to get care through an HMO."

Clark worked for 30 years for Florida's social services agency, formerly known as the Department for Health and Rehabilitative Services. His experience in working with legislators, managing budgets and understanding how government agencies work qualifies him for a state representative's office, he said.

If elected, Clark's first priority would be campaign finance reform.

"Special interest money clouds everything in the Legislature," he said. "Let them contribute all the money they want. But anytime a legislator has to vote on any bill of interest to a contributor, let them abstain from voting and see how quickly the money dries up."

THE JOB

State House District 62 includes most of eastern Hillsborough County. A map of Florida House districts appears elsewhere in this edition. Representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $27,900 a year.

REPUBLICAN

JOHNNIE BYRD, 49, was born in Brewster, Ala. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Auburn University in 1973 and a law degree in 1976 from the University of Alabama. He has practiced law for 12 years and was first elected to the Florida House in 1996. He has been married for 25 years and has four children. ASSETS: house, cars, stock, land, CD. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loans, credit union loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salaries. WEB SITE: http://www.johnniebyrd.com.

DEMOCRAT

JOHN WAYNE CLARK, 57, is a native Floridian. He graduated from Hardee County High School, served four years in the Air Force and earned degrees in history and public administration from the University of South Florida. He worked as a social services administrator for a state agency for 26 years. He is married. ASSETS: house, CDs, retirement fund, car, boat. LIABILITIES: mortgages, loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: pension, investments. WEB SITE: http://www.johnwayneclark.com.

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