Rep. Dan Raulerson's surprise resignation in August has forced a special election in Florida House District 58 in Hillsborough County to fill the remainder of his term, which expires in November 2018. The growing communities of Temple Terrace, Thonotosassa and Plant City face a host of challenges, from diversifying the economy to improving education. In the Republican primary, Yvonne Fry is far more familiar with the residents, character and aspirations of the district, and she promises to be a stronger voice in Tallahassee.
Fry may be a new face on the political scene, but her service to the community goes back decades. The 45-year-old small business owner has been active with an array of groups, from the Chamber of Commerce and the job development agency in Plant City to BayCare Health, Plant City High School and groups that promote the economic and social needs of businesses, women and community leaders.
That breadth of civic service gives Fry a rich perspective on the growing role that eastern Hillsborough County can play in the region. She would strengthen career education in schools, explore incentives to grow small industry and work to balance growth with protecting the area's natural resources. Fry also sees the bigger picture. She supports school choice but also adequate funding for traditional public schools and is a firm supporter of home rule, which has been under attack in Tallahassee. She grasps the diversity of her district and the changes under way, and she can talk with equal ease of working with Temple Terrace to remake its commercial center and with Plant City to diversify and grow its job base.
Lawrence McClure, 30, is another first-time candidate who moved to east Hillsborough several years ago. The small business owner doesn't quibble much with the prevailing approach in Tallahassee on schools or local pre-emption. His limited civic experience may explain his thin policy positions. McClure seems content with the status quo and less willing to advocate for the district's own interests.
Both candidates exhibit the personal skills to succeed in the state capital. Both are conservative, and both would have a limited impact as freshmen. But Fry's long involvement in east county, her connections and leadership skills distinguish her in this primary. She is a clear thinker who understands the impact the Legislature has back home, and her long history of getting things done would make her someone to watch.
Mail ballots are out now for the Oct. 10 primary, and early voting begins Sept. 30. The winner faces a Democrat in the general election in December. In the Republican primary for Florida House District 58, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Yvonne Fry.