In the geographical patchwork quilt that defines election districts for the Florida Legislature, a thin slice of the eastern edge of Polk County is included in House District 42, a district dominated by Osceola County.
This appendage includes Lake Wales and Frostproof.
The demographics of eastern Polk have little in common with those of Osceola County, and the chances of a Polk Countian winning the district against an Osceola County resident are thin.
But that is the hand that is dealt us, and we do have a choice in who we hope will represent our interests in the Florida House of Representatives.
Three Democratic candidates are competing in the Aug. 26 primary election; the winner will face the Republican incumbent in November.
Candidates are Chad Carnell, Pete Placencia, and Zulma Velez-Estrada. Our editorial board has interviewed all three.
Carnell is a native of St. Cloud, and has seen Osceola morph from a largely agricultural county into a suburb/bedroom community of the Orlando metropolitan area.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s in organizational management, and has held several positions as chief financial officer of non-profit agencies. He says this career has given him a first hand look at how government funds are distributed, and says, “I know there is a better way to handle our money.”
One departure from current tax policy that he proposes is to allow tourist development tax revenues to be used for general expenses of government, rather than being restricted to promoting tourism.
A major plank in his platform is legislation to encourage homeowners to install solar electric generation units at their homes by allowing power companies to lease the expensive equipment to homeowners.
He believes the key to making universal healthcare work is “to remove profit from the system.” He acknowledges that he doesn’t know how to do this.
While the state funds only one district office for House members, Carnell says he would establish one in Osceola County and another in Lake Wales.
Placencia, a native of California, practices law in Kissimmee.
He is proud of having done manual labor while in college and taken low end jobs after graduation before returning to college get his law degree. This vocational experience helps him identify with “working class families,” he says. He calls himself a “self-made man.”
He wants to see Florida make strides in technology as a key to economic development, and proposes building two solar energy plants in the district: one in Osceola County and one in Polk. These should be developed by an “energy cooperative,” not by existing power companies, he says.
He questions the need for Workers Compensation insurance, asking, “Why do we need Workers Compensation if people have other insurance?”
Zulma Velez-Estrada, a native of Puerto Rico, holds a master’s degree in finance and management. She moved to Kissimmee from Puerto Rico 24 years ago.
She has owned several small businesses, and is retired from the Division of Children and Families, a career which gave her a close-up look at issues of welfare, domestic violence, and child abuse.
She also has worked in economic development, and done volunteer work in programs for the homeless.
She believes Medicaid should be expanded, and embraces “opportunity and women’s rights,” saying that women seldom are hired in top management positions. She says Florida needs to “improve the quality of life for senior citizens.”
She believes the state should offer incentives to encourage the agricultural industry.
She lists support for agriculture and development of domestic violence shelters as her top legislative priorities.
All three candidates offer ambitious platforms, given that they would be freshman Democrats in a Legislature dominated by Republicans. But we do not fault them for that; better to have big plans and be only partially successful than to propose nothing and be fully successful.
We believe that the compassion she shows for those whom society sometimes overlooks makes Zulma Velez-Estrada the best choice, and recommend her candidacy to our readers.