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Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Tribune endorsements: Sprowls, Sarnoff, Latvala, Young in House primary races

Education, insurance costs and protections for the state’s freshwater springs are just a few of the issues state lawmakers are expected to tackle during the next legislative session. Pinellas County voters will have plenty of choices on the Aug. 26 primary ballot when deciding who they want to represent them in Tallahassee.

Races are being held in state House District 65 in northern Pinellas, in House District 67 in the eastern half of central Pinellas, and in House District 68 in an area stretching north of downtown St. Petersburg. In two of the races, Republicans are hoping to elect a candidate who can unseat incumbent Democrats in the November general election. In the other race, two Republicans and three Democrats are running to represent their party in the November general election.

House 65

A tax attorney and a state prosecutor are running in the Republican primary to face Rep. Carl Zimmermann, the Democratic incumbent.

Debbie Faulkner, 28, runs her own law firm and has deep roots in the district. She says she would work to create high-paying jobs, address rising insurance rates, cut back on government regulations and work to improve local schools.

“We need to allow Florida’s teachers to do what they do best by freeing them from overly complex federal and state regulations,” she says.

She doesn’t think the state should take the federal money to expand Medicaid, and favors gambling expansion because it would generate revenue.

Chris Sprowls, 30, is a state prosecutor for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office who beat cancer as a teenager. He says he’ll work to develop jobs and a more vibrant economy. He wants to target pill mills that promote addiction, thinks the state should find better health care solutions, and wants to make sure the county’s coastline and parks are protected.

He doesn’t think the state should accept federal money for Medicaid expansion, and is against expanded gambling in the state because of the potential effects on tourism and crime. He’s lined up an impressive list of endorsements from local and state Republican officeholders.

Both candidates bring intelligence and passion to the race. And both are running on conservative platforms. But Sprowls is the more polished candidate and appears ready to serve on day one if elected. In the Republican primary for state House District 65, the Tribune endorses Chris Sprowls.

House 67

A union president, a political consultant and an employee of a local dairy production plant are running in the Democratic primary. The son of a state legislator and an Iraq war veteran are running in the Republican primary. The winners will face each other in the November general election to fill the seat vacated by Ed Hooper, who was term-limited out of office.


Stephen Sarnoff, 61, is an accounts manager for the city of Clearwater’s solid waste department who has represented workers as president of the local Communications Workers of America union since 1999.

He says too many people are being ignored in Tallahassee. He thinks the state should accept the Medicaid expansion money, and says legislators should keep their hands off the pension system for state workers.

Shawna Vercher, 32, started a communications consulting business and worked on political campaigns, including the National Rapid Response Team for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. She thinks she can improve communication in Tallahassee. She says the state should accept the Medicaid money, and says schools should partner with corporations to produce graduates ready to enter the workforce.

Thomas Ryan, 61, works in the production area for the Dairy-Mix company. He’s always wanted to run for office and says he offers a fresh voice in Tallahassee. He thinks accepting the Medicaid expansion money is the morally right thing to do, and he would work to relieve the wild fluctuations in flood insurance rates.

Ryan has a basic understanding of the issues but lacks political experience. Sarnoff and Vercher are well versed in the issues and understand the political process. But Sarnoff’s work in the trenches representing the union over the years makes him the best candidate. In the Democratic primary for state House District 67, the Tribune recommends Stephen Sarnoff.


Chris Latvala, 32, is the son of state Sen. Jack Latvala, state Rep. Ed Hooper’s former aide and a vice president at his father’s printing business. He says he loves the district, has grown up in politics and is ready to carry on the legacy. He’s focusing on jobs, education and public safety. He doesn’t think the state should take the Medicaid expansion money, and he is against gambling expansion but would listen to his constituents if they favored expansion.

Christopher Shepard, 26, works at Sam’s Club as a member associate and saw combat in Iraq. He ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2012 and wants to bring conservative principles to Tallahassee. He is against Medicaid expansion in Florida and thinks the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. He supports school choice, and pledges to oppose legislation infringing on gun rights or climate change if it affects government revenues.

Shepard speaks more passionately about national issues than those involving the state Senate. Latvala knows the district well from his time working for Hooper. In the Republican primary for House District 67, the Tribune endorses Chris Latvala.

House 68

The son of a legendary politician is running against a taxi cab driver in the Republican primary to face incumbent Democrat Dwight Dudley.

Bill Young, 30, is the son of the late Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young and works in business development for the National Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo. He says he wants to continue the work his father did helping constituents and the entire Tampa Bay area.

He doesn’t think the state should take the Medicaid expansion money because it will run out one day and leave the state on the hook. He says he’ll work to make Florida more business friendly and will champion veterans issues.

Joshua Black, 31, drives a taxi and is known for making national news by saying President Obama should be hanged for war crimes. He says he doesn’t regret the comments. Voters should expect better judgment from candidates.

Young watched how his father served effectively in Congress and has a realistic understanding of the issues. He’ll fight for conservative principles without being crude or theatrical. In the Republican primary for House District 68, the Tribune recommends Bill Young.

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