Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, drew a Republican opponent on Wednesday as business owner Maurice "Mo" Pearson announced he was running for the seat, which represents parts of Orange County, as a Republican.
Stewart, who beat Bob Brooks for the open seat in November, told Sunshine State News on Wednesday she has been more concerned with her legislative duties instead of winning a second term in 2014.
Theres a lot that needs to be focused on, Stewart told Sunshine State News on Wednesday.
Stewart pointed to a host of issues that she intends to remain attentive of. I will continue to focus on springs restoration and public transportation funding, she said. Stewart also said she would continue to fight for the disabled and for better education.
Noting she had served eight years on the Orange County Commission, Stewart said during that time she learned to work with Republicans and added she was working with members of both parties as part of a pretty good working group focusing on springs restoration. Still, Stewart added she would oppose further public pension reforms which she expects Republicans to push in 2014.
Stewart said she had received high marks from the business community for her votes in the House. While the Florida Chamber of Commerce gave Stewart a 68 for her record in the 2013 session, she received higher marks from the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) which gave her an 82. She cited her marks from the business community -- which are high for a Democrat -- as proof she can work with legislators from both parties.
I dont look as much at partisanship as to the good of the constituents, she said.
Pearson announced on Wednesday that he would challenge Stewart. Pearson founded 3E Consultants, an ecological services consulting firm. He has been active in the community, serving on numerous civic and business boards.
I have seen many changes in Central Florida as a lifelong resident, Pearson said in a statement announcing his campaign on Wednesday. I understand what it means to pursue the American dream, start a business, watch it grow and be accountable for the livelihood and paychecks of over 40 employees.
As a small-business owner, I understand the challenges we face as our economy continues to improve, Pearson continued. Now, more than ever, Florida needs leaders who understand this community, listen to their concerns then work effectively growing our economy, improving education and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
Speaking to Sunshine State News on Wednesday, Pearson said he had filed his paperwork to enter the race and his lifelong ties to the area would help him as he seeks office. I understand whats happening in the community, he told Sunshine State News.
Pearson said he would focus on improving transportation and support the Republican economic agenda. I want to continue to see growth and see jobs coming back to the area, he said, adding he wanted high paying jobs to come to Central Florida.
This is a swing district, to be sure. While Republicans make up 40 percent of the district, a 3 percent advantage over the Democrats, the GOP has often underperformed here. Alex Sink took 51 percent of the vote against Rick Scott who took 46 percent here back in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
Since filing her paperwork at the end of 2012 to run again in 2014, Stewart has raised around $21,330 and spent less than $1,260.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.