State House Dist. 56 candidates seek change, but in different ways

10/05/10 Kate Bradshaw
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What do Davis Islands, Riverview, Brandon, and Fish Hawk have in common? They’re all part of Florida’s 56th House District. This year, that district’s residents go to the polls to choose among three candidates. This race doesn’t conform to this election year’s narrative of tea party insurgents trying to unseat establishment incumbents.

It’s a three-way race. The incumbent is the youngest person in the state legislature. At 28, Rachel Burgin is also the youngest female Republican to hold elective office in Florida history. Her Democratic opponent, David Chalela, is a mere decade older. He started a law practice after years in the Air Force. The third is Lewis Laricchia, a write-in. He ran against Burgin as a Democrat in 2008. Democrat Chalela explains why he’s in the running.

He says he chose this particular race because he wasn’t happy with either candidate when he went to the polls in 2008. If elected, Chalela says three issues will take precedence. A lawyer specializing in foreclosure law, he says he’d tackle the lending practices he thinks are hurting homeowners.

He says the other two issues are unemployment and sustainable energy. Chalela says he’d like to tackle the first by offering tax incentives to companies that set up shop here.

His main opponent, Republican incumbent Rachel Burgin, goes with the GOP party line on the question of how to boost the economy. She says she wants to help push the government out of the way.

Burgin was a 26-year-old White House intern when she was chosen to replace then-State Rep Trey Traviesa, for whom she had worked as an aide. She was subsequently elected to that same seat. She received some criticism for voting against a dollar-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes, but says she had a good reason for doing so.

A Florida tobacco company is one of four businesses that allegedly exceeded donation limits to Burgin’s campaign. Burgin says she doesn’t think any campaign finance laws are broken.

Both Burgin and Democrat David Chalela say they’d be willing to reach across the aisle to work with the other party. But policymaking might prove a challenge for any House Democrat, especially if Floridians choose Republican Rick Scott for their next governor. Chalela says, if nothing else, he’ll use the house floor to affect change.

Write-in candidate Lewis Laricchia did not return an email request for comment, and the phone number listed on his campaign Web site is not active.

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