BROOKSVILLE — Diane Rowden says she wants to help the citizens of Hernando County by being their representative in the State House from District 44.
But Rowden, a Democrat, lives in District 43.
District 43 is comprised mostly of Citrus County residents, although a slice of the district follows U.S. 19 south into northwest Hernando County and includes Rowden's home in the Royal Highlands.
"I think the people deserve full representation'' including those who live in the Hernando communities in District 43 such as Woodland Waters, Brookridge, Royal Highlands, High Point and an area of Weeki Wachee, Rowden said.
But she said the people of Hernando County living in District 44 — which covers most of that county and a hunk of north central Pasco — deserve representation as well, which is why she is aiming at Republican incumbent Rob Schenck, whom she might face in the November general election if she is successful in the Aug. 24 Democratic primary.
"They're not getting representation from the legislator who is there now,'' Rowden said. "Rob Schenck, he's the poster boy for a do-nothing legislator. He takes the prize.''
Schenck called Rowden's move to run outside her district "district shopping.''
"It's widely known that the reason that Diane Rowden is running in District 44 is because the Florida Democratic Party recruited her to do this. They didn't want her running in District 43.''
Schenck said she would have had an easier run in 43 because there were no Democrats in the race. Incumbent Ron Schultz and his Republican opponent will have their contest decided in the primary Aug. 24. Since there is no Democrat or Independent candidate running, all voters in District 43, Republicans, Democrats and Independents will have a chance to vote in the race.
Rowden's decision to run outside her district is one that runs counter to what is stated in the state's rule book, Schenck said.
"The Constitution of Florida clearly states that we have single member districts and that representatives must live in their districts,'' Schenck said. "It's just something she's going to have to answer to the voters for.''
Rowden said she has had to explain to some of her long-time supporters from her time on the Hernando County Commission and the School Board that she isn't on the primary election ballot as a candidate in District 43 because she is running in District 44.
Rowden faces two others in the primary: community college adjunct instructor Jay Thompson and perennial candidate David Werder.
Thompson said he thought it was important that people knew Rowden was running outside her district so that if it made some difference to the way they felt about her candidacy, they were informed. He would not comment on whether it was proper.
"Ms. Rowden is within the law,'' he said, since the law requires residency "upon election'' and not before.
Just what "upon election'' means, however, is unclear.
In an opinion written in response to a question about residency posed late last month by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, the state Division of Elections director determined, "the date that a candidate is officially elected cannot be defined without addressing the issue as applied to a particular factual situation.''
Rowden said the date doesn't matter. She plans to be legal and already in District 44 on election day.
On her decision to run outside the district, she said, "I'm not the first person to do it and I won't be the last.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.