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Candidates for Florida House District 54

The House District 54 race pits a veteran incumbent, Republican stalwart James C. "Jim" Frishe, against former Pinellas County School Board lightning rod Mary Russell, a Democrat. Frishe served for six years in a Pinellas Park-based House district in the 1980s. The voters returned him to office in 2006, when he won in an upset over the son of state Sen. Dennis Jones. He cruised to re-election in 2008 and now seeks a third term. Russell says Democratic leaders recruited her to run. During her tenure on the School Board from 2002 until 2006, she repeatedly clashed with other board members and the superintendent. The two candidates agree on some issues — for instance, they both oppose near-shore oil drilling.

About the job: House District 54 stretches up the western portion of Pinellas along the beaches from Tierra Verde to Clearwater. State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $29,697 a year.

More about these candidates

James "Jim" Frishe, 61

Real estate broker
R Mary Russell, 39

U.S. Navy Reserve
Frishe was born in New York but has lived in Florida since 1956. He has worked as an insurance agency manager as well as in affordable-housing investments and a cell phone tower business. He served in the House from 1984 to 1990 and first won his current seat in 2006. Experience Russell is a former classroom teacher and for the past 12 years has been a Navy reservist. She was born in Oklahoma but her family moved to Pinellas County when she was 2. She served on the Pinellas County School Board from 2002 to 2006.
Associate's degree, Andrew College, bachelor's degree, University of Florida Education Associate's degree, St. Petersburg Junior College, bachelor's degree, University of South Florida
"I think that local government and regional interlocal agreements between governments for large developments should be the norm. Local people generally know more about local conditions than a planner in an office in Tallahassee." How should Florida deal with its future growth and planning needs? Are state laws too lax? "I support planned development that meets the needs of the community and respects the natural environment. Developers should have to submit a plan that demonstrates sustainability as well as economic viability."
"No amount of tax increases will cover the deficit. The answer lies in getting the economy moving again. That means simplifying processes where government interfaces with the business world/consumers and reducing the tax burden. We need to encourage a climate that draws other businesses to the state." Florida faces a $6 billion budget shortfall next year. What would you do about that? "For me balancing the budget would begin with repealing what I call 'GOP re-elect me' legislation. Tax holidays, Bright Futures, vouchers, the FCAT: any and all legislation that sucks money from the general revenue fund and/or state constitutionally mandated responsibilities would be on the table."
"The state may need to consider pricing water as a commodity, so that demand can be properly assessed and managed. Heavier demand users such as agriculture need to move to more efficient use, and residential customers need to realize there is a cost to wasteful water use that goes beyond their current bill." How should Florida provide for its future water use needs? "Better development planning would have helped the situation .?. . We need to do our best not to exceed the natural resources available to us in any given area . . . Individuals can be incentivized to conserve water and education campaigns can help them reduce and reuse when appropriate."
Real estate business, car, home in St. Petersburg Assets Car, home in Seminole
None Liabilities None
Real estate, development, consulting and legislative salary Income U.S. Navy reserve job at MacDill Air Force Base
Married since 1996 to Susan Burnett. Five children. His hobbies are growing roses and rooting for the Rays. Personal Married since 1992 to James P. Russell. Two children. Her hobbies include triathlon training and reading. Website E-mail

Candidates for Florida House District 54 10/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 10:56am]
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