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Fifth U.S. Congressional District

Karen Thurman is proud of her record in office, while challenger Peter Enwall calls attention to her vote on the president's impeachment.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Every two years, U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, seems to draw a new and interesting political opponent.

In 1994 there was "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, the drag racing king. In 1996 there was Dave "Get Tough" Gentry, a publisher whose true-crime magazine featured pictures of scantily clad women, including Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss. In 1998 Thurman faced Jack Gargan, who once led a high-profile push for term limits.

This time around, Thurman faces Peter Enwall. The most unusual thing about him is that there is nothing unusual about him.

Enwall is a Republican who practices law in Gainesville. He is married and has two children. His background is distinguished but low profile.

Maybe that approach will work better. Voters first elected Thurman to Congress in 1992 and she has served in Washington D.C. ever since, holding off challengers with relative ease.

Thurman said she is proud of her accomplishments during the past two years. She helped push Congress to approve spending $200,000 for water studies of the Green Swamp and the Withlacoochee and Hillsborough rivers and helped secure funding for two Department of Veterans Affairs primary care clinics in Citrus and Hernando counties.

But there is more to do. She wants to continue fighting for seniors' rights, particularly the addition of prescription drug benefits to Medicare. She wants to help clear the way for new Medicare HMOs to set up shop in places like Hernando County, where thousands of seniors were left without drug coverage when their Medicare HMOs withdrew.

Thurman said she is pained to see senior citizens fighting corporations and their own government to obtain reasonable health care.

"You can't just keep doing this to people," she said.

One of the most high-profile votes Thurman has cast as a congresswoman came in December 1998, just one month after her last election. Thurman, like most Democrats, voted against impeachment of President Clinton.

Enwall said he decided to seek office because the country is in a state of moral decline. He said Clinton's actions, and Thurman's vote, stand as proof. "I don't think she (Thurman) sees this as a problem," Enwall said.

Enwall describes himself as a Republican in the Ronald Reagan mold. He is a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights and giving seniors a choice of controlling how up to 2 percent of their Social Security money is invested.

Like Thurman, Enwall would not vote to make abortion illegal for an adult mother during the first trimester and opposes all federal funding of abortion. He also said the United States must restore its military readiness and "re-establish a consistent foreign policy that rewards our allies and challenges those nations who openly oppose us," as he put it in a recent opinion piece in the Gainesville Sun.

Also in the race is write-in candidate Don Johnson, 61, a retired communications executive who is moving from Marathon to Inverness.

THE JOB

The 5th Congressional District includes all of Citrus and Hernando counties, part of Pasco and all or part of Levy, Alachua, Marion and Columbia counties. U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $141,300 annually.

REPUBLICAN

PETER ENWALL, 51, was born in Gainesville and attended Gainesville High School, the University of the South in Tennessee and the University of Florida law school. In 1972 he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve and received an honorable discharge in 1980. Enwall's legal career has included a stint as a prosecutor and his current position in private practice. He has been involved in several civic activities. He is married and has two children. ASSETS: real estate, stocks. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCE OF INCOME: law practice, dividends and interest, rent from office building. E-MAIL: enwall@ enwallforcongress.com. WEB SITE: http://www. enwallforcongress.com.

DEMOCRAT

KAREN THURMAN, 49, is serving her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the Ways and Means Committee. Thurman was born in South Dakota and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida. She worked as a math teacher in Dunnellon before serving in the state Senate and then Congress. She is married and has two children. ASSETS: property and homes in Dunnellon and Virginia, individual retirement account. LIABILITIES: mortgages, bank loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: congressional salary, dividends.

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