It would be difficult for voters in state Senate District 22 to confuse the two candidates for their Senate seat. Republican Malcolm Beard is a 10-year Senate veteran who has made a name for himself as a transportation expert and a political institution in Hillsborough County.
Democrat Melissa Perry-Itani is a political newcomer who says she got into the race to protect abortion rights. She has attacked Beard, saying he has taken big money and is too tied to business interests.
Beard cites his work on last session's transportation package as one of his major accomplishments. He is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and pushed to create a smaller transportation planning district to bring road planning closer to home.
"I've just given my life for (transportation) the last four or five years," he said.
Beard, who has raised $85,180 for his re-election campaign, shrugs off his opponent's criticism that he caters to business interests rather than individuals.
"Usually, people raise the issue who can't raise finances," said Beard, a former Democrat who switched parties in 1985.
Perry-Itani says she was inspired to run for the seat after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed some abortion restrictions in a case last year. She says she was disappointed with Beard's response when he was lobbied to support abortion rights, and she decided to run against him.
"It's amazing to me the ignorance of people who are voting, and are voting on things that could affect the lives of millions of women," she said. "We decided Malcolm Beard was one of those we were not going to let sit in office and coast along."
She says having a fresh face in Tallahassee would be an advantage for residents of her district.
"Anyone who is new in Tallahassee is going to have to prove him or herself and is going to be working harder," she said.
Perry-Itani, an officer in the local National Organization for Women (NOW), has raised $9,052 for her campaign, including contributions from NOW and abortion-rights groups.
_ SALLY HICKS
State Senate District 22 is the northeast section of Hillsborough County, including the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens, part of Brandon, Plant City, Thonotosassa and Temple Terrace. Senators serve four-year terms and are paid $22,560 a year.
MELISSA PERRY-ITANI, 25, is the education director for Planned Parenthood of Central Florida. She graduated from the University of South Florida and later received a master's degree in public health. This is her first campaign for public office. She is divorced. ASSETS: Home. LIABILITIES: Mortgage. INCOME: Planned Parenthood salary.
MALCOLM BEARD, 71, has represented Senate District 22 for 10 years. Before that, he served a two-year term in the state House and was Hillsborough County sheriff for 13 years. He attended the University of Tampa. ASSETS: Home and land in Seffner, town homes in Tallahassee, land in West Virginia, land in Wakulla County and Crawfordville, farm equipment, insurance, certificates of deposit, cash, retirement accounts, mortgages. LIABILITIES: Two bank loans. INCOME: Legislative salary, interest income, rental income, Social Security.