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A mental health advocate is making his first run for public office.

David Welch watched in dismay this spring when the Florida Legislature turned down federal dollars and refused to expand Medicaid to cover about a million low-income Floridians.

"We here in Florida - just because we hate Obama - we turn away the funds," he said. "Those people are hurt even more."

It was the final straw, he said. So on Thursday, Welch, a 14-year Hernando resident and mental health advocate, announced his bid for the District 35 seat in the state House of Representatives.

Welch, 48, is a residential counselor at a mental health center and the president of the Hernando chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He has served on a number of local boards, including Friends of Weeki Wachee State Park, the Hernando Symphony Orchestra and the Anti-Drug Coalition.

The district, covering most of Hernando County, is currently held by Rep. Rob Schenck, who must leave office because of term limits.

Welch, a Democrat, becomes the second candidate for the seat, joining Republican Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill home builder and vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Asked about Welch's candidacy, Ingolgia, in an email reply, said only that he wanted to continue to learn the concerns of Hernando voters.

This is Welch's first time running for office.

Welch says he dislikes the extreme partisan nature of politics today, instead favoring "middle of the road" and "common sense" stances.

That makes sense.

Until early June, Welch was a registered Republican - though he said that never kept him from voting for whomever he thought was the best candidate.

Welch says he is most concerned with how the state is taking care of the needy and the middle class.

"I think they are all being left behind here," he said.

Welch knows he has a tough fight ahead of him.

Ingoglia has raised more than $110,000 and has secured endorsements from many prominent Republicans.

That didn't sit well with Welch.

"Everybody just started lining up - as the good ol' boys do," he said.

Contact Danny Valentine at or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.