Voters in central and West Tampa face a special election to replace Democratic state Rep. Michael Scionti, who resigned in December. House District 58 is largely Democratic and covers a diverse mix of neighborhoods, from the gentrifying Riverside Heights and Seminole Heights north of downtown to working-class Egypt Lake and Hispanic West Tampa. The district is home to many small businesses, restaurants and families who have lived there for generations. The primary election is Jan. 26. Early voting begins Monday.
Patricia "Pat" Kemp Democrats
Patricia "Pat" Kemp brings a combination of experience and civic activism her challengers cannot match. She is the only candidate to have worked as a legislative aide at all three levels of government — local, state and federal. The 52-year-old attorney knows how to navigate Tallahassee, and she has the broadest appreciation of the district's diverse needs.
Kemp brings a serious agenda to this race — jobs, consumer and environmental protection, a fairer system for taxation, and available and affordable homeowners' insurance. She has contributed to her community for years, campaigning on behalf of neighborhood protection, the homeless, parks, voters' rights and the Hillsborough River. She would be a strong Democratic voice for the minority party in the Legislature, and her personal ethics would be a breath of fresh air in Tallahassee.
Janet R. Cruz, 53, a Tampa native, has the political and personal ties to build strong relationships even as a freshman. Her small business background and knowledge of the district give her a base and credibility any newcomer would need. But Cruz talks more about the past than the future. A third Democrat, Tampa attorney Gilberto "Gil" Sanchez, 33, has been active in the community but has not waged much of a campaign.
In the Democratic primary for House District 58, the Times recommends Patricia "Pat" Kemp.
Jackie Rojas-Quinones Republicans
Both Republicans are largely unknown first-time candidates. Jackie Rojas-Quinones, 45, is a Tampa native and accountant. She has unformed opinions on many major policy issues, from taxation and school funding to offshore drilling. Rojas-Quinones seems generally open to increasing the budget for K-12 education and for targeted tax relief to small employers.
Hunter Chamberlin, a 37-year-old Tampa attorney, said Florida needs to offer incentives to attract new industry. He also wants to expand school vouchers and allow "unfettered growth of charter schools."
While Rojas-Quinones offers a thin agenda, she at least is in touch with the district. Her focus on small employers and health care for seniors reflects her grasp of the area's pressing needs. She has given back to her community, often at the expense of her own business, by working to promote Hispanic businesses through the Latin Chamber of Commerce. Chamberlin, who has lived in the district for three years, shows no real familiarity with the district.
In the Republican primary for House District 58, the Times recommends Jackie Rojas-Quinones.