As part of the Gabber’s election coverage, we’re reviewing lesser-known races to help voters make a more informed choice in November.
In this issue, we take a closer look at Florida State Senate District 19 candidates.
The Gabber asked each candidate questions compiled by our editorial staff. Answers have been edited for style.
Florida Senate Candidates
A state senator’s job is to represent the people in the upper house of the Florida Legislature. State senators help craft legislation and cast their votes to represent the will of the people in legislative sessions. Members of the Florida State Senate serve four-year terms with eight-year term limits. Some senators are elected to two-year terms, in order to maintain staggered terms among the senators.
District 19 is one of the state’s most spread out districts, representing areas in both Pinellas and Hillsborough. The candidates are Christina Paylan and incumbent Darryl Rouson.
Christina Paylan (Rep) – Christina Paylan is a cosmetic surgeon who immigrated to the United States from Turkey as a child. Paylan vows to overhaul the criminal and civil court system and focus on economic growth for small businesses.
Darryl Rouson (Dem) – Incumbent District 19 Senator Darryl Rouson was elected to the position in 2016. Rouson’s platform focuses on affordable housing and healthcare, environmental protections and criminal justice reform.
Can you explain the District 19 boundaries? Grouping a part of Southern Pinellas County, with a high percentage of minority voters, and a large section of Hillsborough County appears to be the product of gerrymandering. Do you believe voters in District 19 would benefit from redistricting?
Paylan: District 19’s boundaries covers Gulfport, downtown St. Pete and South St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. In Hillsborough County, it covers East Tampa, Ybor City, Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach and Ruskin. I do believe that redistricting District 19 would be beneficial.
Rouson: The boundaries of District 19 can be found on the Florida Senate website under District 19. But a general description is 22nd Avenue North across St Petersburg, bending down at various points to exclude the beaches, but to include Gulfport. In Hillsborough County the district goes to Fowler on the north, comes down to include the Straz Center in downtown Tampa, and goes down to Apollo Beach and Brandon. This is the only district in Florida that is not connected by land, but jumps water. It is the most diverse district in the state. Respectfully, it would be better for the citizens for the district to be more compact.
Florida State Legislative decisions have been infringing upon the home rule of local governments. What, if any, efforts will you make to restore local government control to their own communities?
Paylan: Local government control over communities and limited self-policing within the communities are matters that I believe we need to get back to implementing. There is over-policing at the state level; the presence of state troopers, city police and county sheriff is excessive. I am in support of eliminating this kind of excessive and inefficient policing, leaving only the sheriff in charge of policing serious crimes. As to lesser offenses that are non-violent, I strongly believe that community units should be led by pastors to address the offenders by both punishment that does not involve jail or a criminal record, and by teaching them life skills.
Rouson: I am the only elected Democrat to have served on the Tax and Budget Review Commission and the Constitutional Review Commission and was able to prevent several amendments that would have encroached on home rule. I will continue to support local control in most cases in the senate.
How does the state plan to direct school safety – particularly in mass events like active shooter drills – in relation to COVID-19 concerns?
Paylan: School safety is our top priority and active shooter drills must continue to be conducted while social distancing is adhered to. I believe that students have to learn that in the event of an active shooter, their concerns will need to be redirected to getting themselves out of immediate harm’s way first while understanding that once immediate harm is eliminated such as an active shooter, then COVID-19 precautions should be resumed.
Rouson: The State Board of Education is still in the process of deciding how they will deal with many of these issues. I was appointed to the CRC by Commissioner Corcoran and have regular conversations with him about the reopening.
What measures will you support to combat the impact of climate change on your coastal district?
Paylan: I support a task force designated solely on educating the citizens of my district of the simplest measures they can take in order to help climate change effects in our district, which involve simple educational tools as use of mulch to protect our coastal district from flooding.
Rouson: I support funding for resiliency programs such as those led by Commissioner Janet Long and I support the state becoming a more sustainable energy-user at every level.
How do you feel about the political direction of the state, and of the country as a whole?
Paylan: The political direction of our country as a whole is at a boiling point. Both sides of the aisle have contributed to this boiling point. There are narratives that are being propagated by both sides knowing that certain trigger words in fact trigger the right or the left.
Rouson: The political process has become hyper-polarized and I think that most descriptions of me in Tallahassee are of a legislator that tries to reach consensus across the aisle.
What can you promise the voters you will NOT do?
Paylan: That answer is very crystal clear for me and that is that I will never sell my constituents down the river. I will also never say I am the voice for my constituents without making sure that I hear first from the people, rather than the local leaders for the people.
Rouson: I will not forget that I represent the people of District 19 and will always strive to serve their interests.