1. Opinion

Times recommends: Bob Buesing, Darryl Rouson for Florida Senate

With several prominent state senators unopposed or facing only write-in candidates, there are just two genuine Florida Senate races in the Tampa Bay area. The outcomes will affect which issues get more emphasis in Tallahassee, including health care and children's initiatives.

Bob Buesing

District 18

Bob Buesing distinguishes himself in this race for an open Senate seat with his life experience, passion and appreciation of everyday challenges Floridians face. He is uniquely qualified and would bring a strong voice for this Tampa-area district.

Buesing, 63, is a longtime Tampa attorney and recognizes the importance of investing in health care, children's programs and transportation for the region to grow and protect its quality of life. The Democrat's support for expanding Medicaid would improve public health and strengthen the area's hospitals, and his plans for job training, small businesses and early childhood programs would give thousands of local residents a better chance to compete and succeed.

Buesing has a long and rich civic record, serving as a board member and volunteer to a host of organizations, from the YMCA to the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County.

Rep. Dana Young, 51, has served in the Florida House since 2010, representing South Tampa. But she is out of touch with the needs of the community. The Republican opposes Medicaid expansion, new transit initiatives and other efforts that would well serve a growing city. She supported a bill that would have cleared the way for fracking — not ban it as a third-party group supporting her claims in a mailer — and a pro-polluter water development bill. Part of the House's Republican leadership, Young carries a hard edge, rarely compromises and can be flip at times about serious issues. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Young questioned whether people have a fundamental right to health care and said she doesn't see that right in the Constitution. It's hard to imagine her in the more collegial Senate.

Joe Redner, 76, the no-party candidate long hailed as Tampa's strip club king, probably has the strongest name identification in this race. His agenda is serious: higher wages, campaign finance reform and stronger protections for the environment and civil rights. Buesing, though, shares much of this agenda and is the better candidate.

Buesing's principled stance on the most important challenges facing the state and his character and leadership skills would well serve the district, which includes most of Tampa and its suburbs to the north and west. For Florida Senate District 18, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Bob Buesing.

Darryl Rouson

District 19

Rep. Darryl Rouson effectively won this open Senate seat in the Democratic primary by narrowly defeating three other opponents. The Republican in this race is not a credible candidate, and Rouson is well-prepared to represent this district that covers significant portions of St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Rouson, 61, has served in the House since 2008 and has been successful bringing state money home for public schools, summer jobs for students and other community needs. He supports Medicaid expansion, requiring jury recommendations for the death penalty to be unanimous and allowing cities to hold voter referendums on transit projects that can only be held countywide now.

The St. Petersburg lawyer would continue to focus on issues such as eliminating non-driving infractions that result in driver's license suspensions, reforming the prison system and raising the minimum wage.

John Houman, 69, is a first-time candidate and real estate broker. The Tampa Republican wants to improve the process for restoring the civil rights of felons, but he has little understanding of the district or of state issues.

Rouson already has represented a district that crosses county lines, and he has a record of working with members of both political parties. For Florida Senate District 19, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Darryl Rouson.