Meet the Candidates: Florida Legislature

From left to right--top: Jennifer Bradley, Keith Perry, Rodney Long, Chuck Brannan and Yvonne Hinson. Bottom, from left: Hollye Merton, Chuck Clemons, Ty Appiah, Olysha Magruder and Brandon Peters.
Editor’s Note
Mainstreet Daily News will continue running longer profiles of the candidates for local offices, posting questionnaires completed by the candidates for the various offices.

Last week, Mainstreet Daily News ran a series about the candidates who have qualified for the upcoming elections. Check out our previous stories on the Alachua County School Board, the Gainesville mayor, the Gainesville commission and the Alachua County commission races.

Following statewide redistricting, Alachua County is split between two Florida Senate seats— newly redrawn Senate District 6 and 9 seats—and three Florida House seats—10, 21 and 22.

Current Senate District 5 seat holder Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is running unopposed for the redrawn Senate seat in District 6. In the Senate District 9 race, W. Keith Perry, the incumbent Republican currently serving in District 8, will face Democrat Rodney Long in November. Neither candidate is facing a primary challenger.

In Florida House District 10, incumbent Republican Chuck Brannan is running unopposed. In the redrawn Florida House District 21, Democrat Yvonne Hayes Hinson, who is currently serving in Florida House District 20, will face Republican challenger Hollye Merton in November.

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The Florida House District 22 features four candidates. Republican Chuck Clemons, who is from Newberry and currently serves as the District 21 representative, will have a challenger in the August primary. Bronson Republican Ty Appiah, who works in the healthcare field, is running against Clemons, a senior vice president at Santa Fe College.

On the Democratic side, Olysha Magruder and Brandon Peters are in a primary contest to see who takes on the Republican winner in November. Magruder, a university learning design and faculty development director from Gainesville, and Peters, an attorney from Williston, will be on the August ballot.

Florida Senate District 9

Courtesy of Rodney Long campaign Rodney Long

Candidate: Rodney Long

Age: 65

Occupation: Real Estate Broker and Licensed Surety Agent, CEO of two non-profit organizations.

Previous experience in elected office: Gainesville City Commissioner, Mayor-Commissioner of Gainesville, Alachua County Commissioner, served as Chairman of BOCC on two separate occasions.

Public service other than elected office: President of the Florida Association of Counties, 

Member of the National Association of Counties Board of Directors, Ministerial Staff of Showers of Blessings Harvest Center.

What prompted you to run for the Florida Senate? For over four decades, I have been involved politically and civically in Gainesville/Alachua County. Politics in Tallahassee has become so toxic, culturally divisive and partisan that issues that face everyday Floridians aren’t being addressed. Florida needs pragmatic leaders that believe in consensus building and reaching across the aisle to find solutions to problems facing this state. 

 What are the two most important issues facing the Florida Legislature? There are many important issues facing the Florida Legislature that it’s almost impossible to narrow them down to the two most important. However, housing affordability and property insurance is important. Currently there is a 300,000-housing unit shortage in Florida that makes the American dream of homeownership a nightmare. Healthcare for the most vulnerable Floridians is a challenge. Currently there are 2.6 million Floridians that are eligible to receive Medicaid. Florida is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid.  

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida Senate? In addition to affordable housing and healthcare/medicaid expansion, education is a major priority for me. According to our State Constitution, “Education is Paramount to the welfare of our children.” Florida ranks 45th in the nation in education funding for our children. As the next State Senator, my goal is to work with like minded legislators to raise our funding to the top ten percentile over the next decade. I’m a firm believer in Equality For All regardless of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In addition, I support a woman’s right to decide her own reproductive choices. I will continue to support protecting our natural resources including our outstanding water bodies, i.e., lakes, springs and the aquifer from degradation and contamination. I support full funding of Florida Forever Funding to purchase environmentally sensitive lands. As a former local elected official, I am a strong believer and advocate for Local Government Home Rule Authority. I believe that the government closest to the people is the best form of government. 

Candidate: W. Keith Perry

Perry (Candidate media: Website) did not participate in the Mainstreet Daily News questionnaire.

Yvonne Hinson

Florida House 21

Candidate: Yvonne Hinson

Age: 73

Occupation: Florida State Representative, District 20

Previous experience in elected office: Gainesville City Commissioner, Florida State Representative

Public service other than elected office: Gainesville Housing Authority, GRACE Marketplace Board of Trustees, NAACP, ACLU, DEC and the Democratic Women’s Club

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for re-election to the Florida House? While I have always been dedicated to a life of public service, I realize that this year is more critical than almost any other election. Our very democracy is on the ballot; we are traversing through radical changes to freedom as we know it. I am running for re-election because the people of my district deserve a representative that is working for them. 

What are the two most important issues facing the Florida Legislature? Under the guise of promoting “election integrity,” Florida’s Republican majority has maliciously attempted to suppress Florida voters. The implementation of bills such as SB90 and SB524 aim to put up additional barriers to voting and target communities of color. Therefore, I believe the most pressing issue for the Florida Legislature is to protect the right to vote and the right to elect just representation with non-gerrymandered maps. Floridians deserve free and fair elections, and as legislators, we must guarantee our most sacred rights.

Climate change is no longer something that can be put on the back burner; it must be a top priority for all representatives across the nation, but especially those in Florida. Florida is commonly known as the ground zero in the climate crisis, with rising sea levels, dangerous hurricanes, and much more. Insofar as the climate crisis threatens to harm Floridians’ livelihood it is imperative that action is taken at the state level, boldly and swiftly. 

What do you hope to accomplish in an additional term? During my additional term, I plan to continue to fight for Floridians, ensuring that all citizens have the freedom to be healthy, prosperous and safe. I will work with my colleagues to boost the advancement of North Central Florida while also not being afraid to challenge the powerful.

Courtesy of Hollye Merton campaign Hollye Merton

Candidate: Hollye Merton

Age: 65

Occupation: Technical analyst at GRU and CEO of Aquility Systems, Inc.

Public service other than elected office (boards, committees, advisory groups): Retired Navy.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for the Florida House? The District 21 incumbent is anti-2nd Amendment and should not represent us further.

What are the two most important issues facing the Florida Legislature? At the moment, securing our 2nd Amendment right from those so misinformed that they would trade it for false security, and working together to protect our children with strategies other than failed gun control.

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida House? Please see the extensive plan I have laid out at my website, www.HollyeForFlorida.com

Florida House 22

Courtesy of Olysha Magruder Olysha Magruder

Candidate: Olysha Magruder

Age: 43

Occupation: Director of learning design and faculty development at Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

Public service other than elected office: I was a public school teacher in Alachua County for several years. I served on local boards such as the Alachua County School Planning Advisory Committee, Y-Not Theater Board, and the Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Advisory Board. Additionally, I’ve been involved with many volunteer organizations like the Alachua County Labor Coalition, National Education Association, Sierra Club, NAACP, Indivisible, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. 

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for the Florida House? Many Florida state legislators vote to protect the wealthy and attack our rights and democracy. I’m running to put people first, regardless of race or wealth. I grew up in a working family of coal miners, preachers, and teachers. I have lived to work and worked to serve in the community. I will push and support legislation in favor of working people to create an economy that works for all, not just for special interests and corporations.

What are the two most important issues facing the Florida Legislature? The two most significant issues facing my community are a lack of affordable housing and the attacks on democracy and public education. I will legislate to increase funds for the Sadowski Trust Fund and support requesting a state of emergency to stop landlords from price gouging. Florida Republicans continue to attack our fundamental rights and democracy itself including the passing of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill and the abortion ban. Finally, the state has little respect or support for our public education system and educators, attacking academic freedom, banning books, and picking fights with local school boards.

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida House? I hope to protect women’s reproductive rights, by continuing to fight to expand Medicaid, repealing the abortion ban, and supporting efforts to codify abortion into law. I will protect our public education system, by repealing the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, increasing pay for school workers, and using the money appropriated to our public education system to support teachers and reduce the educational achievement gap. Our state must be up to date with the 21st century. For this reason, I will support the legalization of recreational marijuana while incentivizing local businesses to get involved in the industry and using the tax proceeds to fully fund our public education system.

Courtesy of Brandon Peters campaign Brandon Peters

Candidate: Brandon Peters

Age: 54

Occupation: Attorney

Public service other than elected office: Florida Voter Protection Director for Biden-Harris Campaign; voting rights volunteer for Democratic Party and Democratic Campaigns; anti-toll road activist; Clean water advocate; Williston Chamber of Commerce member; Sierra Club member

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for the Florida House? As a longtime resident of Levy County and a North Central Florida Democrat who embraces progress and prosperity, I have been deeply-disappointed by the policy direction and lack of political leadership by Representative Chuck Clemons and the Republican Party of Florida. 

At the urging of many of my neighbors from Gainesville, Newberry, Bronson, Trenton and beyond, I decided to enter this race after spending the last four years working alongside my wife Stacey to strengthen our communities and help build the Democratic Party in North Central Florida. 

What are the two most important issues facing the Florida Legislature?  While there are many issues that our Legislature should be working to address, two that stand out for me are protecting our democracy and supporting our public schools. Rather than making it more challenging for Florida voters to participate in our elections and embracing the former president’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election results, the Legislature should instead be passing legislation to protect voting rights, prohibit gerrymandering, and enshrine fair election maps with a neutral, transparent redistricting process. I object to Governor DeSantis’s aggressive gerrymandering schemes that have created unfair and racially discriminatory congressional maps in our state.

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida House? I want to be an effective and highly-engaged legislator for District 22. I hope to earn the reputation as a guy who will roll up his sleeves and work tirelessly to pass meaningful legislation to protect our rights and ensure every Floridian has the freedom and the opportunity to be healthy, prosperous, and safe. I want to apply my passion for community organizing and engagement, and my knowledge of Florida law and legislation, to help craft policy approaches that make life better for the residents of Alachua, Gilchrist, and Levy Counties.

Other candidates

Florida House 22 Republican candidates Ty Appiah (Candidate media: Website) and Chuck Clemons (Candidate media: Website) did not participate in the Mainstreet Daily News questionnaire.

Other races
Florida Senate District 6 candidate Jennifer Bradley (Candidate media: Website) and Florida House 22 candidate Chuck Brannan (Candidate media: Website) are both unopposed, and neither participated in the Mainstreet Daily News questionnaire.

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