Bernie Fensterwald, a Dunedin-based Democrat, filed paperwork in Tallahassee on Wednesday to run against Republican Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race.
Sprowls, first elected in 2014 and on a fast track to House leadership, has raised over $168,000 to date in his bid for re-election to the seat. He also has a separate political committee, “Floridians for Economic Freedom.” That organization raised $122,000 in May and had about $297,000 on hand.
Fensterwald is currently retired after a career as an attorney, though he says he’s still somewhat involved in a self-storage company.
He says the No. 1 thing that motivated him to file against Sprowls was the Palm Harbor Republican’s vote for a fracking bill in the last legislative Session. Although he says fracking is unlikely to occur in Pinellas county, “that we would even think about threatening the environment” was enough to compel him to get involved.
That legislation, sponsored by Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, required the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study into the impact fracking, and other high-pressure well stimulation techniques, would have on Florida’s water and geology. It also required the agency to designate FracFocus, a national chemical disclosure registry, as the state’s chemical disclosure registry; increased penalties from $10,000 a day per violation to $25,000 a day per violation; and required drillers to get a permit before they can begin fracking.
The bill also prohibited local governments from instituting bans, but allowed local governments to adopt and enforce zoning and land use regulations as long as those rules don’t “impose a moratorium on, effectively prohibit, or inordinately burden” those activities. It was strongly opposed by environmental groups.
Though it passed in the House, its companion in the Senate failed to win approval.
Fensterwald also said he’s a big supporter of improving public education.
Fensterwald acknowledges he likely won’t be competitive financially against Sprowls, but says he thinks he can be when it comes to volunteer people power and the battle of ideas.
He intends to issue a statement telling more about him and his candidacy in the next day or so.
District 65 includes Clearwater, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor in northern Pinellas County.