Keyonna Summers, Times staff writer
Political newcomer Ashley Rhodes-Courter faces off against veteran lawmaker Jack Latvala in this newly drawn district. Rhodes-Courter, a former foster child, is an internationally known child welfare activist who hopes to educate policymakers and advocate for better laws. Latvala says his main focus will be fostering economic growth and creating jobs.
|Jack Latvala, 60 Business owner||Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 26 Author and speaker|
|Latvala was born in Mississippi but has lived in Florida since 1961 and in Pinellas County since 1979. Latvala, who first delved into politics in college as a campaign manager, has worked for the Florida Republican Party, been a lobbyist and owned a political direct-mail company. Today, he owns several companies, including a printing business and car wash. He served in the Senate from 1994 to 2002, took a break, then won his current seat in 2010.||Experience||Rhodes-Courter was shuffled among 14 foster homes before her adoption at age 12. A child welfare activist since age 14, Rhodes-Courter is the author of Three Little Words, a New York Times bestselling memoir about the abuses she suffered within the system. Today, she writes, consults for child welfare groups and speaks about her experiences nationally and abroad. She says she is running out of a desire to advocate, educate and inspire others.|
|Bachelor’s degree in political science from Stetson University||Education||Bachelor’s degree in communications and theater, with minors in political science and psychology, from Eckerd College; pursuing a master’s of social work at University of Southern California|
|Tailor higher education course offerings better to the available jobs today and projected into the near future. More emphasis on clean, light manufacturing as the third leg of our economic stool for Florida.||What can the Legislature do to grow Florida’s economy and create more jobs?||We must invest in education, new industries (such as alternative energy) and infrastructure to lure quality jobs to Florida. We cannot simply rely on reducing our already low corporate tax rates that deprive our state of much-needed revenue.|
|We should work harder to build national support for a catastrophic wind insurance program, similar to national flood insurance.||What is your solution to make property insurance more accessible and affordable?||The Florida Legislature needs to take an aggressive role in limiting the ability of companies to increase premiums or decrease coverage for customers without substantial and transparent justification for doing so.|
|It should not be repealed, but it should be changed. It should not be able to be used by those who are the aggressors in combative situations.||Should “stand your ground” be changed? Repealed?||A serious review of this law is needed. We must ensure that people can defend themselves in dangerous situations, but also protect innocent lives from vigilante justice or circumstances that can be defused without violent confrontation.|
|I support more use of toll lanes for new capacity. I do not support using toll facilities for existing capacity, such as the Howard Frankland Bridge. I support mass transit as one piece to be added to the future transportation mix.||What would be your priorities for transportation?||Increasing availability and access to mass transit should be a major legislative priority. Other states have proven it can be done inexpensively. Tallahassee’s rejection of federal support for infrastructure projects is costing us jobs and future business.|
|Three homes, stocks and bonds, bank accounts and three companies worth $5,898,697||Assets||Home|
|$216,476 mortgage||Liabilities||Mortgage, car loan, student loan|
|$252,183 from interest-bearing accounts, rental property, businesses||Income||Consultant work, freelance writing and public appearances|
|Lives in Clearwater; father of adult son and daughter; two grandchildren||Personal||Lives in St. Petersburg with her husband, Erick Smith; foster mother to three young children (and nine others in the past); she’s due to give birth to her first child during election week.|
About the job: Redistricting this year created the new state Senate District 20, stretching from Largo to Tarpon Springs. State senators serve four-year terms and are paid $29,697.