Candidates for state senate seat all want to tackle poverty; just differently

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Four Democrats are running for a State Senate seat that includes parts of Hillsborough and South Pinellas Counties. They faced-off at a forum in the Enoch Davis Center in St. Petersburg. But the pre-screened questions provided for a subdued, almost scripted atmosphere.

The NAACP Branch of Saint Petersburg organized the forum; attended by nearly 100 people. Darryl Rouson, currently a State Representative, is the former director of this chapter. He is also one of the candidates. For him, reducing the burden of poverty on families is key. He said his legislation;

“…sought to reduce poverty by 30% over the next 5 years. And I got that funding as the state’s contribution to what the city, the community and the county were doing. Unfortunately the governor vetoed it. But we’re going to come back at it. Sometimes it takes two whacks at this thing to get stuff passed.”

Augie Ribeiro jumped into the race only days before the deadline. He offers energetic ideas but tends to reiterate the same points regardless of the question. His campaign is mostly self-funded. He views special interest money as the root of the problem.

“…the profiteers that invade this community. (They) keep this community in a cycle of poverty when they’re taking pay day loans. It’s incredible. The interest rates are outrageous. That needs to be regulated. I will fight in Tallahassee.”

Another candidate is state Representative Edwin Narain. He recognizes underperforming schools as a challenge. He and the other candidates agree it’s about funding. Narian said the focus must be on the family from all angles.

Truly making sure the next generation isn’t born into it (poverty). That’s my biggest concern. We’ve got people who’ve been raised in public housing; that their mother was raised there; that their grandmother was raised there. That’s a problem. And It takes people who know the issues. It takes people who have made it out of that, to come back and offer real solutions that can help folks.”

Former State Representative and the only woman running, Betty Reed, arrived after the forum had begun. She echoed many of the same sentiments as the other candidates but appeared tired and didn’t elaborate on her answers.

I believe that if they are given the $15 an hour….I will help fight, fight, fight for the $15 an hour.”

The candidates agree that the TBX project, including express toll lanes on I-275, is a bad idea.

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