Nearly 250 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2020. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.
Just like in 2016 and 2018, we’re again asking every candidate 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: Tony Tsonis, a Democratic candidate for House District 48.
2020 Florida legislative candidate questionnaire:
In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?
My family, and our district has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus. I will fight for both in Tallahassee to ensure better access to healthcare, affordable housing, and a working unemployment system for all Floridians.
I have a Master’s degree from Georgia Southern, a B.A. in Public Administration from UCF, and an Associate of Arts degree from Valencia College.
What was your first job?
I worked for four years at Wet ‘n Wild in Orlando. I made so many friends there that I am still in touch with today.
Significant other? Kids?
I have been married to my wife Cortni Tsonis for 12 years and we have two children Harrison 6, and Henry 2.
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement?
I spoke with Rep. Anna Eskamani as I was fighting for unemployment benefits for my co-workers at Hilton. We didn’t discuss running, just how we could help my coworkers receive their benefits.
Who do you count on for advice?
My wife. She knows me better than anyone.
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
We don’t really have one. My team is comprised of very experienced marketers, data analysts, and copywriters. We are using our funds to reach voters, not pay political hacks.
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
My close friend Gary. Gary works in higher education in the state and he recognized that our campaign is dedicated to improving public education, whether that’s preK-12 or higher education.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
I am inspired by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Being the only statewide elected Democrat carries a heavy burden and she approaches her position with strength, dedication, and resiliency.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
I think people mistrust politicians because they lack authenticity and they’ve put party over solutions. I am a solutions-oriented person, I don’t care where a good idea comes from. I’ll work across the aisle to solve problems with my focus squarely on the working men and women of Florida at all times.
What are 3 issues that you’re running on?
I want to improve access to healthcare by expanding Medicaid coverage under the provisions in the ACA. I will fight to expand access to affordable housing by protecting our state’s housing trust funds. I will fight to reform Florida’s unemployment system so that it is a reliable portal and system of benefits when Floridians need it.
What is a “disruptive” issue you are interested in?
Vacation Rentals. Companies like AirBnB and VRBO are benefiting from the taxes paid by the hotel and lodging industry and need to pay their fair share to promote tourism in our state. They also should be regulated just like other industries so that we protect the residential nature of our communities.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
Our district needs more affordable housing options. So many of the people in our community work in the hospitality industry like myself and they are significantly overburdened by their housing costs. We also need better access to health insurance. Expanding Medicaid would improve the health of our district. We also need to strengthen education by improving funding levels per pupil and salaries for our teachers.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
Bob Graham – Governor Graham led a dramatic improvement of Florida’s state universities, as well as ambitious efforts to diversify Florida’s economy. Governor Graham also launched extensive environmental efforts which included the Save the Everglades program.
If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?
I would decriminalize marijuana possession, we have far too many people incarcerated in this state for non-violent drug offenses. I would also require all Florida law enforcement agencies to meet standards for community policing programs which strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
I don’t think so. I think connecting with constituents so you can have a conversation and hear their concerns is more important.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
My kid’s cereal box, then e-mail.
Where do you get your political news?
Orlando Sentinel, Washington Post, New York Times, and Miami Herald.
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
In 280 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?
We’re fighting to put Florida’s Workers First! We believe that strong Floridians will lead a strong recovery and you can’t be strong without access to healthcare, affordable housing, and a working unemployment system. Join our fight at TonyTsonis.com #HD48 #WorkersFirst
Coaching youth sports, travel, and hiking.
Favorite sport and sports team?
College Football. UCF: Go Knights, Charge On!