Two local State House races will feature incumbents Yvonne Hinson and Chuck Clemons taking on Hollye Merton and Brandon Peters, respectively, on Nov. 8.
Hinson and Merton are vying for the Florida House 21 seat while Clemons and Peters are battling to represent Florida House 22.
In the Aug. 23 primary election, Clemons earned 71% of the vote over Ty Appiah for the Republican nod, while Peters edged Oleysha McGruder, 52% to 48%, to capture the Democratic bid.
State Rep. Chuck Brannan (R) is running unopposed for the Florida House 10 seat.
The following are responses to a Mainstreet Daily News email sent to each candidate. Three of the candidates replied to the email while Hinson replied via phone.
FLORIDA HOUSE 22
Candidate: Brandon Peters (Democrat)
What are the three top issues you are focused on in your campaign? I am focused on women’s rights, local control, and Florida’s property insurance crisis.
In the State House, I will fight to protect every Floridian’s constitutional right to privacy, especially in matters concerning women’s health care. Big Government should not interfere in reproductive decisions or family planning — it has no business inserting itself into our bedrooms or doctors’ offices.
Second, I will vote to preserve Home Rule in our cities and counties. Throughout the district, local leaders and residents who live here know what is best for our communities, not state government bureaucrats or politicians from other parts of Florida. The state should stop interfering with local control by imposing its “one-size-fits-all approaches” to issues that are best handled locally.
Finally, I will be working on solutions to Florida’s property insurance crisis. Many residents in our district either cannot obtain property insurance coverage or if they can, the cost is terribly high. It is unacceptable that our insurance rates are the highest in the nation – three times higher than the national average. The Legislature must hold insurance companies accountable and fix this crisis immediately. The present situation was completely avoidable if lawmakers had just been paying attention; their $2 billion taxpayer-funded bailout for the failing Florida property insurance industry was a terrible and completely unsuccessful waste of money.
What are you hearing from the electorate that concerns them? Voters in Alachua, Levy, and Gilchrist counties have expressed concerns about the state interfering in local matters and imposing the will of well-paid lobbyists on issues like destructive development and toll roads. The high cost of property insurance is making Florida unaffordable for many families, some of whom cannot afford any insurance at all.
Finally, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and ongoing efforts to undermine the right to privacy enshrined in the Florida Constitution are a threat to our basic freedom.
Voters are looking for common sense, community-focused leaders who will work on real solutions to the challenges our state and communities are facing – they are tired of politicians with cynical agendas wasting time on extreme partisan politics.
Why do you feel it is important to run for this position? Our district needs and deserves a strong voice in the Legislature, someone who is focused on serving the people. We cannot have a representative who is beholden to special interests and answers only to lobbyists. As a long-time resident of this district, a local lawyer and an involved citizen who has organized against damaging toll roads and been engaged in other important, community issues, I am confident that I would bring the people’s voice back to Tallahassee and work in a bipartisan manner to deliver results that will uplift our community.
Candidate: Chuck Clemons (Republican)
What are the three top issues you are focused on in your campaign? Keeping taxes low, a good healthy financial reserve and keeping Florida the freest state in the nation are my priorities.
I am proud that Florida is the envy of the nation, and I am proud to say that I have been part of this process. I have been recognized by the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida and Tax Watch for my work on behalf of my constituents.
The emphasis on the environment and education will remain, as I have helped to deliver record funding for springs restoration and increases in teachers’ salaries. Personally, I will continue to donate my salary as a state representative to Santa Fe College, providing scholarships to deserving college students.
What are you hearing from the electorate that concerns them? The community is concerned with increasing prices and the lack of affordability of everyday necessities. In the Florida legislature, we’ve helped combat this by increasing the amount of tax holidays on everyday goods, and even creating a tax exemption for children’s diapers, clothes, and shoes. I have been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business for my support for small businesses. I also led the E-fairness bill, which guaranteed out-of-state sellers would not have a price advantage over Florida businesses through the omission of the collection of sales tax. I will remain committed to putting Florida businesses first and ensuring that our community is in a solid financial position.
Why do you feel it is important to run for this position? I am running for my final term in the Florida House, having served three terms representing Gilchrist, Dixie, and Alachua counties. As a fourth-generation Floridian and a first-generation college graduate, I have lived, worked, worshiped, and volunteered for most of my life in this community. Serving my neighbors for 6 years in the Florida House has given me the opportunity to champion Florida values through 86 different bills enhancing public safety by closing loopholes for the registration of sexual predators, raising teachers’ salaries, improving springs and waterways as well as supporting small businesses. My budget victories has constructed new schools, fire stations, and provided needed funds for flood mitigation. My priorities will remain the same in my final term: to help my community and to continue providing trusted, proven leadership.
FLORIDA HOUSE 21
Candidate: Yvonne Hinson (Democrat)
What are the three top issues you are focused on in your campaign? Looking at my top three issues, education is always going to be at the top. We have teachers leaving the classroom because of lack of dignity and respect. Money is a critical issue, but not the issue. Teachers want to be respected and they also need classroom support – not just classroom supplies – but day-to-day support. Teachers also need relief from overcrowded school. Classrooms should not have 30 to 35 children in them. We need good teachers mentoring new teachers. We need to have an educated citizenry.
Secondly, we need safety with guns. I understand the Second Amendment and I have many relatives who have guns, but I’ve never seen so many young people with guns. So, I’m planning my first bill to deal with gun safety. It’s not about taking guns away from people but about making them safer, especially for our young kids. I want common sense gun safety.
My third item is housing affordability. What am I hearing from constituents is that their rent has doubled and tripled. That’s why I believe in home ownership and building wealth for young families. Mortgage payments don’t change. While I served on the Gainesville Housing Authority Board, we passed a rule where people on Section 8 could buy a home and use Section 8 to pay their mortgage. That is empowerment like I’ve never seen before. One of my goals as one of collaborating with the local government regarding the rise in skyrocketing rent.
We also have an affordable housing crisis with insurance premiums. Florida’s insurance premiums are three times more than the national average. We had a special session, but it seems like the cure was worse than the cold. So, we have to go back at it when we go back to session and spend a little time researching issues and finding better results for people. We need to find a happy medium between people and insurance companies because insurance companies are leaving the state, but we’ll always have hurricanes.
Candidate: Hollye Merton (Republican)
What are the three top issues you are focused on in your campaign? The top issues I am running on are Securing our schools to keep our children safe. I have some proven methods to attack the problem on many fronts. My experience in working in secure facilities along with my training makes me very qualified to get the job done without encumbering school staff or impositioning the students.
Protecting parental rights. Parents have the right to know what their children are learning and be an active part in their education. They also must have the expectation that teachers are acting in the best interests of their children, not pushing agendas such as grooming and sexual content other than normal socially acceptable norms and only to young adults, not elementary students.
I stand strong on the Second Amendment and will work diligently to protect it from the onslaught of recent attacks. Gun control does not work and I know what does. I will support Constitutional Carry and will work to provide funds to assist gun owners to receive the proper training they need.
What are you hearing from the electorate that concerns them? Currently, most are concerned over inflation and supply chain issues, however, I am also hearing concerns over medical autonomy after the devastating decisions and mandates that have taken place over the course of the last couple of years. Additionally, I have heard concerns over the possibility of war given the Russian invasion and news talk of the use of nuclear weapons by the Russians. Finally, one that is bound to affect every Floridian is the insurance problem. Florida homeowners are struggling to maintain their insurance and the devastation from Ian will undoubtedly compound the problem.
Why do you feel it is important to run for this position? We have had a representative for two years that had done nothing in the way of legislation that would help the people of Alachua and Marion counties other than secure some appropriations for her favorite causes. I feel we need someone that is not woke (as she considers herself) and that will use reason and compassion in legislating, not emotion. It does no one in District 21 any good if the person in office is ineffective.