Democratic challenger surfaces to challenge Schenck
SPRING HILL -- A prominent Spring Hill attorney announced his candidacy for the Legislature this morning, offering to replace a Democratic challenger who withdrew last week for family reasons.
Jason Melton, president of the Hernando County Bar Association, will compete against Republican incumbent Robert Schenck, who won his seat by 1,000 votes in 2006. Melton said he is picking up the mantle of Joseph Puglia, who dropped out of the race when his wife became seriously ill.
"I believed in Joe Puglia's platform, just as I believe the incumbent, Rob Schenck, has failed to serve the people of House District 44 effectively," Melton said in a statement. "When I heard that Joe Puglia had to pull out of the race, I knew someone needed to step up quickly and continue this campaign to elect a more capable and responsive legislator."
For more, check tomorrow's Hernando Times. To read his full announcement, click below.
John Frank, Times staff writer
Hernando County attorney enters race for
SPRING HILL, FL -- Spring Hill resident Jason M. Melton announced today that he is a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives District 44 seat occupied by Republican Robert Schenck.
Melton, a former prosecutor who now focuses his practice on injury and criminal defense matters in a seven-county area in Central Florida, decided to enter the race after fellow Democrat Joseph Puglia withdrew to care for his wife, who is undergoing treatment for a serious medical condition.
"I believed in Joe Puglia’s platform, just as I believe the incumbent, Rob Schenck, has failed to serve the people of House District 44 effectively," Melton said. "When I heard that Joe Puglia had to pull out of the race, I knew someone needed to step up quickly and continue this campaign to elect a more capable and responsive legislator."
The Democratic executive committees in the three counties that comprise District 44 –- Hernando, Sumter and Pasco -– have endorsed Melton’s candidacy, and his objective of unseating the incumbent on Nov. 4. "Speaking on behalf of the Hernando DEC, I can assure you we are just as pleased with Jason Melton being in this race as we were with Joe Puglia," said chairman Jay Rowden. “Both are good men with good ideas and a very good sense of the day-to-day struggles facing the people of Florida. Voters will see the similarity in their determination and their vision," Rowden said.
Puglia, whose campaign literature touted his persona as "a hard-working Joe," echoed that admiration.
"Jason Melton has worked hard to establish his business and to help people who needed it," said Puglia, a former New York City police officer and a pilot for United Airlines. “He knows the issues and he knows the law, which should give him a leg up in Tallahassee."
Melton said that when he is elected to the Legislature, his priorities will be creating jobs and lowering property insurance rates.
"Florida led the nation in the number of jobs lost last year (96,000) and Hernando County has one of the highest unemployment rates in Florida," Melton noted. "That is because this region has depended almost exclusively on the residential housing market to survive. Schenck was part and parcel to that narrow focus before he unexpectedly quit the Hernando County Commission in 2006. The seeds of greed and runaway growth were sown during his tenure, and the result of that harvest can be seen today all the way from Brooksville to Wall Street."
On homeowners insurance, Melton said Schenck and the Legislature have tried to fool Floridians into thinking the crisis has passed. "The reality is it has not, and it is likely to worsen. It’s time for Schenck and his buddies in Tallahassee to stop boasting about how they have reined in the insurance companies," Melton said. "They did not and they most likely will not."
Melton, a former president of the Hernando County Bar Association, said he realizes his late entry into this race will be an uphill battle, but he is confident that the people of House District 44 will give him the support he needs to win this seat.
"I appeal to the people who supported Joe Puglia to vote for me. And I appeal to those who are undecided to give me an opportunity to persuade them that I am the candidate who will represent their interests in Tallahassee," Melton said. “I know I can do a better job for them than the incumbent, and I’ll work hard for every vote."