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Florida House District 60 a campaign of contrasts

MANGO — By most standard measures, the race in state House District 60 is a classic mismatch.

The incumbent is Republican Ed Homan. He has experience and name recognition from three terms in office, connections from an established surgical practice and a professorship at the University of South Florida and more than $123,000 in contributions.

By comparison, Democratic challenger E.J. Ford got a late start in the race, is making his first run for public office and has raised less than $6,000 in contributions.

But neither man is taking anything for granted. The election is Nov. 4. Early voting lasts through Nov. 1.

Both have spent months walking neighborhoods around the district, which is based in Temple Terrace but extends from Northdale to Mango.

Homan expects he and his volunteers will knock on at least 10,000 doors before the campaign is complete. He plans several targeted mailings before Election Day.

"The strategy of the campaign at this particular point, when you get down to the last month, is just to get your name out there," he said.

Running is one thing, and legislating is another.

Homan says working as a faculty member at the University of South Florida's medical school has prepared him to advocate for his two legislative priorities — advancing higher education and expanding access to health care.

But with the economy foundering, Homan expects this to be a tough legislative year. The Legislature won't raise taxes, he predicts, and lawmakers will look at cutting programs to balance the budget. Homan advocates cutting education the least, then health care, then everything else.

By comparison, Ford advocates diversifying Florida's revenue sources to make taxation more fair and less dependent on property taxes. When it comes to cutting the budget, he favors reducing spending on projects before human resources like teachers and police.

Ford, a political science instructor at the University of Tampa, also supports building public transportation, investing in alternative energy and making insurance coverage more affordable by pooling risk broadly and perhaps establishing a national catastrophe fund.

When it comes to the campaign, Ford says the sinking economy, a generalized disgust with incumbents and a strong Democrat at the top of the ticket could help him make a stronger-than-expected showing.

"Everybody I talk to wants to talk about the economy," he says. He describes voters as worried and not confident they have someone on their side in government.

"I think this is a really bad year to have an 'R' after your name, especially here in Florida," Ford says. "… The proposition that I put to voters is pretty simple: If you like the way things are going, keep voting Republican."

Ford said he is husbanding his money for one mailer before Election Day and hopes that high voter turnout this year and exposure he gets from walking neighborhoods persuade voters that "there is a legitimate alternative to the guy who is the incumbent."

Several politicians and observers said this week they would be surprised at an upset.

As a surgeon, Homan is well-placed to be an effective legislator on health care issues, and his seniority would mean something in a Republican-controlled house, said Bob Buckhorn, a former Tampa City Council member and political analyst. Buckhorn has firsthand experience in the district, having run unsuccessfully for the seat as a Democrat in 1992.

Ford, he said, "would be hard-pressed to make any inroads in Ed Homan's base."

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

>>AT A GLANCE

The job

District 60 includes most of Temple Terrace, plus parts of Lutz, Northdale, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene, Thonotosassa and Mango. The term lasts two years. Representatives make $30,336 annually.

The candidates

Democrat E.J. Ford, 40, of Temple Terrace, was born in Boston, grew up in Hillsborough County and earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in anthropology from USF. A first-time candidate, he is an urban anthropologist who teaches political science at the University of Tampa. He is married to Julie Ann Ford and has three children.

Web: www.ejford.org

Republican Ed Homan, 65, of Temple Terrace was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., earned a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a medical degree from LSU and moved to Hillsborough County 33 years ago. A Navy veteran, he is an orthopedic surgeon and an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at USF. He chairs the House Committee on Audit and Performance. He is married to Carol Ann Hodges and has three children.

Web: www.edhoman.com

Florida House District 60 a campaign of contrasts 10/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 5:56pm]
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