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Newcomer doesn't walk away from political challenge // HOUSE DISTRICT 45

Editor's note: This is a profile of candidate Brian Prescott. A profile of his opponent, Rep. Mike Fasano, will be published later this week.

Brian Prescott's opponent in the House District 45 race, state Rep. Mike Fasano, is a fiery campaigner with high name recognition and an overflowing campaign war chest that Prescott is unlikely to match.

On days when that gets him down, Prescott can turn to a notebook containing famous quotations that he keeps handy "as motivation never to give up."

"Here's one of my favorites from Thomas Jefferson," Prescott said Monday. " "Politics is such a torment that I would advise everyone I love not to mix with them.' "

Prescott joked: "I know that one by heart. Politics really hasn't changed in 200 years."

One thing that hasn't changed in two centuries: Name recognition is crucial, and Prescott's biggest battle may be getting his name out to voters before the general election Nov. 5.

At 27, Prescott is a political newcomer running against one of Pasco's savviest and best-known campaigners who, in a series of previous runs for office, has never blushed at mixing it up.

So far, however, the District 45 race has been relatively polite, although Prescott has stepped up attacks in recent weeks on Fasano's two years in the Florida Legislature representing the district, which includes a slice of far eastern Hernando County.

"If you compare my resume to Mike Fasano's resume, I believe I'm more qualified than he is," Prescott said. "I'm in touch with what the people of Pasco County need. I have had experience in dealing with their problems on a day-to-day basis."

Prescott served as a Pasco Sheriff's Office deputy for six years before resigning his position last summer to campaign. He served two previous years as a Hillsborough corrections officer.

Fasano has countered with mailings depicting him as tough on crime and touting his endorsement by the Police Benevolent Association.

But Prescott said the real experience on the street as a deputy gives him the edge over an opponent who cannot claim police or military service.

"I worked as a deputy sheriff on the front lines . . . and made hundreds of arrests as an officer," Prescott said.

Prescott was born in Elgin, Ill., the youngest of four children. When he was 14, his 41-year-old father, Larry Prescott, died unexpectedly of a heart attack the day before the wedding of one of his daughters.

Before the heart attack, Prescott had been in perfect health, and his death devastated his son.

"My dad was my best friend," Brian Prescott said. "He was the person I most admired."

After the death, the family moved to Florida in 1983. Financially strapped, Prescott said he took a series of odd jobs as soon as he was old enough to work and help his mother, Rhonda, make ends meet.

"I mowed lawns and washed cars and gave all the money to my mom," Prescott said. "I would have loved to been able to go to a movie once in a while."

After graduating from Hudson High School, Prescott decided to join the Army, joining a line of relatives, including his father, who had done the same.

Except for a heart murmur discovered during a routine physical a month into his service, Prescott said he might have made a career of the military.

"I couldn't afford to go to college out of high school," he said. "We couldn't afford it. At the least, I hoped to pay for college through the Army."

The murmur, Prescott said, wasn't life-threatening, but the Army insisted on giving him an honorable discharge.

"It was hard for me to accept that because of a minor medical technicality I would not be able to do something I had dreamed of my entire life," he said.

Ultimately, Prescott became a Hillsborough corrections officer and, later, joined the Pasco Sheriff's Office, eventually becoming a school resource officer at River Ridge Middle/High School.

Through financial assistance offered to deputies in Pasco, Prescott was able to obtain a criminology degree in 1995 at Saint Leo College, graduating summa cum laude.

As a sheriff's deputy, Prescott helped implement a gang prevention program at River Ridge and helped organize a chapter of Students Against Driving Drunk.

Prescott has made his police service and work as a school resource officer the linchpin of his campaign.

He has focused his campaign on reducing juvenile crime and improving education. He has repeatedly noted that Pasco consistently ranks low among Florida counties on the amount of state money received for education.

"That's deplorable," he said. "It should not happen."

Prescott said he wanted to eliminate unnecessary tax breaks to industries in order to generate more money for education. And he said he wants to increase taxes on communications technology, including fees charged to users of cellular phones and pagers.

With increased funding from those sources, he said lawmakers could free up lottery dollars to finance a program that would help those without traditional scholarships afford college.

"Too many kids are trapped in the middle, as I was," Prescott said. "Their parents don't make enough money to pay their way through college. And their parents make too much money to get a free ride."

He said he also thought the state should develop better ways to prevent juvenile crime rather than spend time considering how to punish offenders.

One way to do that, he said, is to ensure that students receive a quality education.

"The single biggest indicator showing if a young person will become a criminal is the education they have," Prescott said.

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