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.