Nearly 350 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2018. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.
Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email [email protected]
Today’s feature: Debra Bellanti, a Democrat running for Florida House District 60.
2018 Florida legislative candidate questionnaire:
Candidate for Florida House, District 60
Significant other? Kids?
Husband, Anthony Bellanti – Married 11 years, he is a Property Appraiser
Daughter, Josephine Bellanti – 9-year-old, attends Mitchell Elementary
Education background? Professional background?
Florida State University, 1990
Owner, Creative Director of Bellanti Creative – Marketing Consultation
26 years in Tampa
Native Floridian, grew up in Ft. Myers, FL
Serving on The Salvation Army Advisory Board – for over 12 years’ now, Chairman, PR Committee, The Salvation Army
Former Chairwoman of the TGH Storybook Ball, and of the St. Joseph’s Gala, and of the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball.
What was your first job?
Babysat at 13 years of age and worked at Camp Keystone, The Salvation Army’s summer camp, every summer until college
In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?
To fix the mess my opponent has made. She has failed our schools, our children, and Tampa. She cannot and will not serve another term. (25 words exactly!)
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?
Met with many elected and former elected before filing to run. Encouraged to run by leaders in Democratic Party as well as colleagues and friends in Tampa. Notable: Betty Castor, Gary and Jane Gibbons, Pat Kemp, Ed Narain, Guido Maniscalco, Peggy Land, Bob and Karen Buesing, Ione Townsend, and Mark Hanisee.
Who do you count on for advice?
Have a great team that I go to daily for advice. My campaign manager, Jean Yglesias. My finance chair, Peggy Land. My volunteer manager, Lisa Edwards. Gregory Wilson, advisor. Plus a few more…
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
Jean Yglesias, Campaign Manager
Gregory Wilson, Advisor
Lisa Edwards, Volunteer Manager
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
Scott Farrell, friends for decades and he ran for the seat previously.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
In current state government I cannot name one particular person that has inspired me. Do I respect them, absolutely! But inspire me? I am more inspired by the activists and the community that has stepped up to make change happen. The Parkland Students… they inspire me.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
The general consensus is that people mistrust our elected officials’ due to their lack of transparency and their coziness with the large corporate donors. “Follow the money” is a commonly heard statement when discussing our politicians.
What am I going to do about it? I will be open and transparent 24/7. Will be available by my personal cell phone to any constituent. I will not claim harassment if a constituent calls or emails me complaining of a vote I may have taken. My goal is to meet with constituents – including those registered as R, D, and NPAs – either in person or by phone before taking any major votes to truly represent my district.
What are 3 issues that you’re running on?
To uphold our Constitution by fully funding a free and equitable public-school system; to defend local municipalities and keep Tallahassee in their lane when it comes to Home Rule; and to respect smart development that will help our economy grow while protecting our waterways, coastline and drinking water.
What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?
I am interested in any “disruptive” issue if its effects to the community are positive. So Paypal, Venmo… both disruptors.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
We need our legislators to fund our public schools and to keep our kids safe. They need to fully fund anything they mandate and not expect local government to increase their taxes to pay for it.
We need them to stay in their lane when it comes to local municipalities. Each of the 67 counties in Florida are different and one rule won’t and shouldn’t apply when it comes to tree ordinances, vacation rentals, or billboards.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
I would have to say Reubin Askew, followed by Lawton Chiles.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
Yard signs do not equal votes! (Just made all the finance chairs across the country clap out loud!) However, as a first-time candidate and someone with a marketing background, I do know getting my name out is very important, so we will play the game and put out our signs.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
Where do you get your political news?
Social Media: Twitter, Facebook – follow most news outlets and journalists/reporters
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?
Bring common sense to Tallahassee! B/C voting to reduce public school funding doesn’t improve them. Deregulation doesn’t make our drinking water safer. And telling locally-elected officials that Tallahassee knows better simply doesn’t make sense! I will look for smarter ways to get more done.
Spending time with my family in the great outdoors, including hiking, biking, and going to the beach; reading a really good book; and watching my daughter play flag football.
Favorite sport and sports team?
College football — Florida State University Seminoles, alma mater.