Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House 69 candidates differ on mental health needs, fracking and other issues

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the candidates running for Florida House District 69 are a study in contrasts.

Republican incumbent Kathleen Peters is at ease with her stump speech, amiably engaging audiences of familiar faces and seemingly oblivious to the woman who aims to supplant her.

Political newcomer Jennifer Webb, the Democrat, is earnest and studied, less at ease and more likely to take shots at her opponent.

Webb is clear about why she wants the District 69 seat, which covers south Pinellas beaches, South Pasadena, Gulfport and northwest St. Petersburg.

"Because our community deserves someone who will bring their voice to Tallahassee and really represent them and ensure that we are investing in our community and our families and standing up to special interests and big money lobbyists. And I'm that person," said Webb, 36, director of community partnerships in the office of community engagement and partnerships at the University of South Florida.

By "special interests and big money lobbyists" she means "the oil and gas energy and utility companies, the extractive companies that take from our communities but don't give back to our communities … people who are making money out of these terrible policies coming out of Tallahassee that my community, District 69, is just fed up with," she said.

Peters, 55, first held elected office as a South Pasadena commissioner. Later she was elected mayor, then to the Florida House in 2012 and re-elected in 2014. What issues come up as she campaigns? Peters said much of the talk is about mental health. It's her signature issue.

"I'm getting great response to the changes we have made," said the Treasure Island resident, who spent two years visiting mental hospitals and prisons to learn about the system and went on to spearhead statewide reforms.

The area's troubled sewer system also is high on people's list of concerns, Peters said. "That has been a huge topic and people are very frustrated and they are very pleased that I have done work to bring it to the forefront," she said.

Webb thinks Peters has overblown her efforts on behalf of the state's mental health system.

"Because I think the trumped up rhetoric of 'I single-handedly reformed the mental health system' is, I think, trumped up," Webb said, unapologetically hinting at a certain controversial presidential candidate.

"She has addressed one aspect of it, decriminalizing mental health and substance abuse. The truth is that we don't have enough mental health providers and people don't have access to affordable health care in a reimbursement structure. That is something that can absolutely be addressed at the state level," said Webb, who supports Medicaid expansion.

Peters acknowledges there is more work to be done. "What is next is funding" to give communities the resources they need, she said.

Webb, who lives in Gulfport, said she is hearing concerns about the infrastructure and environment, issues that are "inextricably linked," and about education. She's also hearing the concerns of families just recovering from the economic recession and hoping to continue to do so.

Both candidates agree that the environment is a serious issue, but vehemently disagree about where Peters stands on fracking. Peters says she opposes it. Webb points to her vote on a fracking bill that she says indicates otherwise.

Webb said a summary of the bill Peters supported shows that "it actually prevents local counties and cities from being able to ban fracking on their borders."

The bill, which failed in the Senate, would have authorized fracking and prevented local governments from regulating it. It also included a temporary moratorium and would have authorized the drilling technique only after it came before the Florida Legislature for another affirmative vote.

"I've always opposed fracking and you can interpret that bill any way you want to," Peters said. "That bill put in place a moratorium. When I read that bill and read the moratorium, it took an act of the Legislature to lift it. Anytime we have done a moratorium, it has always been difficult to reverse it. … Right now, because that bill failed, now anyone can come in and there's nothing we can do."

Webb disagrees. "She could have helped bring a bill that banned fracking, so we could have voted to protect Florida once and for all," she said.

On Monday evening, Webb joined others at a gathering organized by the interfaith group Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST. The group wants candidates to support a bill that would give children across the state equal access to civil citation programs, which would allow them to avoid arrest.

"I went because it was my opportunity to represent my future constituents, who when asked, overwhelmingly supported this bill," said Webb, adding that her community "doesn't want to line the pockets of the private prison industry at the expense of criminalizing our youth."

Peters did not attend. She said she was speaking at another event that night, but supports the effort and has voted for civil citations.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

House 69 candidates differ on mental health needs, fracking and other issues 10/27/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2016 11:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  2. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  3. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  4. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85

    Ml

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  5. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement

    Environment

    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)