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HD 27 race Democrats: Carol Lawrence is out, Dolores Guzman is in

Battle for seat opening up in Volusia County has three Republican candidates too

A new Democratic candidate has emerged and a veteran Democratic candidate departed in the race for the seat opening up in Volusia County’s House District 27 with Dolores Guzman entering the contest and Carol Lawrence pulling out.

Guzman, 63, of Deltona, was elected last year to the West Volusia Hospital Authority board after being appointed to an opening there the year before.

Now she enters the HD 27 race in southern Volusia County where Republican state Rep. David Santiago is leaving due to term limits. Three Republicans have been battling all year for the Republican nomination. It’s an evolving district, growing in population, and with the electorate becoming more Hispanic and more purple. In 2018 Santiago had easily defeated Lawrence.

Lawrence filed this summer for a another shot, but dropped out this week due to health reasons.

By then Guzman had entered.

In 2018 Guzman won the seat on the West Volusia Hospital Authority board, defeating Webster Barnaby 55 to 45. She said she was able to do so even though he outspent her by about eight to one in campaign money. More votes were cast in that election, about 75,000, than in the HD 27 election last year.

Barnaby, of Deltona, is of three Republicans seeking Santiago’s seat, along with Erika Benfield of DeBary and Zenaida Denizac of Deltona.

“I am going to run on the values of health care, education, affordable housing, and the things that really affect my community. Those are the most important things,” Guzman said. “And climate change.”

She is a licensed insurance agent, a caretaker, and a former Affordable Care Act navigator. Born in New York City and raised in rural Puerto Rico, Guzman has lived in the district for 24 years. She said she has become increasingly active in politics and community affairs over the past decade, founding the Volusia County Democratic Party Hispanic Caucus, working on voter registration drives, and volunteering on campaigns.

She characterized herself as someone whom people turn to for help, and who feels a passion for helping them. She said that drives her in politics, and it’s where she draws her strength in the campaign.

“A constituent calls me, I drop everything. I doesn’t matter. They need help, I’m going to fix it,” she said.

“I have to win voters’ confidence, and explain to them how the system works, how to access health care, how to make sure their children get a great education without having to pay student loans, and get affordable housing, and bring some resources into the district that will help the seniors get affordable housing, which doesn’t exist in District 27,” she said.

She kicked off her campaign last weekend with events in Deltona and Edgewater, insisting she will be the first candidate in a long time to pay attention to both ends of the district, populated areas in Orlando’s I-4 corridor to the west and along the coast to the east,  separated by about 20 miles of swampland and indirect roads.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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