Democratic state Rep. Helen Spivey and her Republican challenger, Nancy Argenziano, both tout themselves as ardent conservationists.
Spivey said she is the better candidate because she has a greater understanding of the issues, environmental and otherwise.
Argenziano said she is better because she will listen to all people, not just those with whom she agrees.
On Nov. 5, voters will decide which woman is correct.
District 43 covers all of Citrus, northernwestern Hernando County and two precincts in Dunnellon. Representatives serve two-year terms.
The campaign has been hard-hitting all along, and recent days have been no exception. Spivey is accustomed to tough fights, though, having upset Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick in the 1994 Democratic primary and then taking down Gene Keith in the general election.
Argenziano first announced a decision to seek the District 11 state Senate seat that Karen Johnson held. Argenziano later said she thought her talents would be best used in the state House of Representatives.
Spivey says Argenziano saw that Spivey had not gathered nearly as much campaign money as the Senate candidates were likely to gather.
"I was the better pigeon to go after," Spivey said.
Argenziano has been a vocal supporter of measures to protect local water supplies and says she "takes a back seat to no one" on environmental issues. She says Spivey, though well-known as an environmentalist, is not doing all she should to protect this precious resource.
Specifically, she said Spivey is too quick to accept the water management districts, whose performance has been criticized. She said that, before voting for a piece of water-related legislation, Spivey failed to read the language.
Spivey said Argenziano drew the incorrect conclusion about that water legislation. She also said Argenziano has failed to attend the countless government hearings and workshops that Spivey sat through both before and during her time in the Legislature.
Indeed, few people can challenge Spivey's qualifications as an environmentalist. For many years, she has tirelessly fought to protect the endangered manatees in this area and to clean up local waterways.
"I don't think she understands a lot of the environmental issues," Spivey recently told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. "If you want to claim a title, you have to go along with learning what it's all about. I've seen no sign of that."
Though targeted by some industrial and business groups as being anti-development, Spivey said she merely wants to strike a balance between protecting our resources and growth.
"I'm against unmanaged growth," she said.
If elected again, Spivey said she would return to Tallahassee with the same goal she brought there in 1995: passing legislation that links growth and water management.
Crime is another sticking point. Argenziano said Spivey has voted against a state initiative that requires inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
Spivey said that she supported the STOP (Stop Turning Out Prisoners) initiative. What is more, she pushed legislation to make aggravated abuse of a senior resulting in death a felony punishable by death.
During her first years in Tallahassee, Spivey said, the Legislature took money from education to build prisons. Last term, lawmakers took $400-million from children and elderly services, she said.
"It's a rob Peter and pay Paul" mentality, Spivey said.
Argenziano said Spivey is too extreme in some views and will not give a fair hearing to those who disagree with her.
"The district needs and deserves a balanced and effective and focused and, most importantly, approachable representative," she recently told a crowd of supporters.
The proposed Citrus extension of the Suncoast Parkway is a good example of where the candidates differ.
Argenziano said she does not "have her head in the sand," and thus realizes that the road is coming, whether Citrus likes it or not. She has found no evidence that the road would present an environmental hazard.
Spivey, meanwhile, said there is still time to stop the road at State Road 50 in Hernando County. To do otherwise, she said, would be to allow a mass infusion of vehicles into Citrus without adequate infrastructure to support the growth.
"We're not prepared to do things responsibly," Spivey said.
Her solution: mass transit.
"We've got to get people out of their cars," she said.
House District 43
NANCY ARGENZIANO, 41, belongs to the Nature Conservancy, Florida Wildlife Federation, Christian Children's Fund and serves as executive director of the Withlacoochee Basin Initiative. A Brooklyn, N.Y. native, Argenziano has lived in Florida since 1971 and northwest Citrus since 1987. She has worked in real estate, stained-glass artistry and has managed an animal hospital. Argenziano has one grown son. ASSETS: home, property, mutual funds. LIABILITIES: doctor bill, credit card. SOURCE OF INCOME: none listed.
HELEN SPIVEY, 68, won election in 1994 and serves on the House committees that oversee natural resources, aging and human services, tourism and cultural affairs, government operations and legislative technology. She has won numerous awards from groups such as the Florida Audubon Society, Florida League of Conservation Voters, Save the Manatee Club and the Sierra Club. Born in Orlando, Spivey served on the Crystal River City Council before becoming a representative. Spivey is married and has three grown children. ASSETS: home, savings, household goods. LIABILITIES: mortgage, two small loans. SOURCES OF INCOME: Social Security, legislative salary.