Two Democratic challengers have stepped forward to run against the two Republican state senators who represent portions of Citrus County.
Barry G. Brooks will face state Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon. His entrance into the race for the District 3 seat pits an incumbent from that far-ranging district's southernmost county (Citrus) against a longtime government administrator from the district's most northwestern point.
"I'm concerned about rural Floridians and what opportunities they have," said Brooks, 40, who lives just outside Tallahassee in Leon County. A small portion of Leon County is one of the 12 counties that make up District 3.
"There needs to be a little stronger voice, particularly from that district, being such a rural, agricultural district," he said.
Meanwhile, Citrus County's other state senator, Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, also faces a Democratic challenger.
Joseph "Steve" Mattingly, a retired auto worker from Shady Hills, is revving up his second campaign for the seat held by Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
The 58-year-old Democrat has filed the paperwork to run for the District 11 seat, which includes portions of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, as well as the northern tip of Pinellas County.
Both Fasano and Argenziano have already filed paperwork to run for re-election.
Brooks is the chief deputy tax collector for the Leon County tax collector, where he has worked since 2001. Before that, he spent 12 years as a state government employee, working mostly for the Florida House of Representatives.
Brooks noted Monday that he worked on the House staff when Argenziano was a state representative. He said he wants to focus on economic development within his district, noting that access to jobs improves access to health care and other benefits.
He noted the challenges of the widespread District 3, which includes Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Taylor, and Dixie counties, plus portions of Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Columbia, Levy, Marion and Citrus counties.
Brooks has a brother who lives near him in Tallahassee; his other brother lives in Belleview in Marion County. The Tallahassee brother isn't in the same Senate district as Brooks; the Belleview brother is.
Mattingly, a volunteer and former president of the AARP chapter in Spring Hill, emphasized the need for health care and prescription drug coverage for the working poor during his 2002 campaign.
But the political newcomer lost the Democratic primary with 45 percent of the vote to former Pasco Sheriff Lee Cannon, a higher-profile candidate who enjoyed the party's backing.
Cannon lost the 2002 general election to Fasano.
Health care remains a top issue in Mattingly's campaign, according to a 2004 candidate statement on file with the state Division of Elections. Mattingly also opposed the legislative measure allowing phone companies to seek higher rates, and he opposes efforts to further deregulate utilities.
To deal with troublemaking students, Mattingly supports "separate facilities for the discipline of disruptive students," according to his statement.
He also thinks all high school students should be required to take a "psychology of life skills" class before graduating.
_ Amy Wimmer Schwarb can be reached at (352) 860-7305 or wimmersptimes.com.