Three Republicans and two Democrats are running in the newly drawn House District 58, which includes Clearwater, Indian Rocks Beach and Belleair Beach.
That area of mid-Pinellas has been largely represented since 2014 by state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who was forced from the seat by term limits.
Latvala now works for Kimberly “Kim” Berfield’s campaign and has endorsed the former state representative. She is running against Jim Vricos, an adjunct instructor at Keiser University and Schiller International University, and Jason Holloway, the founder of a tech consulting business.
The race for the Republican nomination has generated huge spending, with campaign expenses for Berfield and Holloway totaling close to $250,000 combined.
Berfield, 51, is vice president of government and community affairs for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She represented District 50 in the Florida House from 2000 to 2006 and made an unsuccessful run for Florida Senate in 2006.
Berfield said her top legislative priorities would be making housing more affordable, addressing the labor shortage, expanding manufacturing industries in rural communities and improving mental health for constituents.
She said her involvement in the Clearwater community and her track record in state government make her the most qualified candidate in this race.
“At a very early age I was taught community service is part of who you should be, and giving back to the community and helping to identify solutions is important, not just sitting around and complaining about what you don’t like,” she said.
Holloway, 30, founded DLT Consulting, which provides technical consulting to clients worldwide. He is a former Democrat who worked as a legislative assistant to Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson. He has invested close to $40,000 in cryptocurrency and was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Florida Blockchain Taskforce in 2019.
He has tied his campaign closely to DeSantis, calling him “the best governor in the country,” and saying he “needs more patriots that have his back.”
Holloway and his affiliated political action committee, Keep Florida Red 2022, have spent close to $200,000.
He said he wants to keep taxes low and use blockchain technology to streamline Florida’s government. He also wants to expand affordable housing and improve vocational opportunities for high school students.
“What distinguishes me the most is being innovative and young,” he said.
Vricos, 55, served as assistant attorney general for the district of Columbia and assistant state attorney for Charlotte County, Florida.
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He said his top legislative goals are to address homelessness and “aggressive panhandling,” support small businesses, reduce the minimum wage and stand up for law enforcement.
“I have three children that are 11, 11 and 13,” Vricos said. “They’re what made my wife yell at me to finally run.”
On the Democratic side, Bernard “Bernie” Fensterwald, the multimillionaire co-owner of a self-storage company, is running against Joseph Saportas, who owns an insurance business.
Fensterwald, 71, is a retired attorney and former school counselor who is vice president of U-Store Management Corp.
A progressive Democrat, he said his top legislative priorities are to reduce gun violence, expand affordable housing and prevent environmental degradation in Florida.
“I’m going to look for legislation which protects people from being killed by weapons of war, on the streets and in the supermarkets, in our churches and in our schools. There’s no reason why this should happen,” he said.
He also wants to reduce rhetoric about “culture war” issues, saying people of all political stripes are weary of them.
Saportas, 74, ran unsuccessfully for Pinellas County tax collector in 2020.
He said his legislative goals are to preserve abortion rights, ensure the safety of children and educators in schools and grant locally elected school boards greater independence and decision-making power. A longtime gun owner, he also supports expanded background checks for gun purchases.
Saportas called himself a “native Floridian” and said he was motivated to run by a desire to reform the Florida House.
“This state used to have an extremely strong reputation for good government,” he said. “That’s long gone.”