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Politics

Race for Central Florida Swing Seat 'Going to Be Close'

November 1, 2016 - 7:30pm
Mike Miller and Beth Tuura
Mike Miller and Beth Tuura

Public safety --- through gun control or gun owners' rights --- is a key issue in an Orange County state House district that includes the Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were massacred in June by a homegrown terrorist.

But key issues also include economic development, health care, LGBT rights, education and the environment.

Incumbent Republican Mike Miller has advantages in money and name recognition over Democratic challenger Beth Tuura, but District 47 remains a swing seat that could help decide if the GOP maintains its super-majority hold on 80 seats in the 120-member House.
 
The outcome of the race could be swayed, in part, by how well presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get their parties' voters to the polls.

"It's going to be close," said University of Central Florida political-science professor Aubrey Jewett.

"If Hillary can win, and win by (a) two-, three-, four-, five-point victory, then a lot of down ballot races may go Democratic," Jewett said. "Conversely, if Trump can keep it close or if he can win … then the opposite will be true and a lot of these down-ballot races will go Republican."

The district, mostly east of Interstate 4 and split by State Road 408, often known as the East-West Expressway, leans slightly Democratic, by 1,890 voters. Independents make up 25 percent of the district.

Tuura, who if elected would become the first openly gay woman in the history of the Florida Legislature, has tried to paint Miller as being too conservative for the district. But a coup for Miller was landing the endorsement of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat.

Dyer has taken some flak locally, but he argued in an ad that it would be hypocritical of him to turn his back on someone who has helped the city simply because of the candidate's political party.

"He has supported Orlando's fight against homelessness, voted against destructive practices, and supports our diverse values," Dyer said in a prepared statement.

Tuura said the endorsement isn't a big factor and rattled off a number of high-profile Democrats in her camp, including President Barack Obama.

However, Jewett said ads featuring Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, a Republican, have allowed Miller to display a "bipartisan image."

Tuura said the Pulse shooting in June hasn't changed her focus from protecting the rights of women and the LGBT community, expanding Medicaid, improving working conditions for teachers and addressing environmental issues such as the need to reduce toxic algae blooms and keep the drilling process known as fracking out of Florida.

But the June shooting has elevated gay-rights issues and the need for gun control for residents of the district, she said.

"If you were here in the days after the shooting and saw the outpouring in the community, the gatherings, it didn't matter if you're white or black, Hispanic, faith-based or secular, this is a community that came together out of love," Tuura said.

Tuura is critical of Miller's support for a bill, known as the "Pastor Protection Act," which passed this year and was billed as protecting clergy members who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. She also criticized Miller for supporting a bill that would have allowed people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on college campuses. That bill died in the Senate.

She would work to ban military-style "assault rifles" and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks and support efforts to bar people on federal "no-fly" lists from being able to purchase guns in Florida.

Miller, who was a district director for former Congressman Ric Keller and later director of marketing and corporate sponsorship of athletics at Rollins College, did not return requests for comment.

He is campaigning this year on issues such as cutting regulations that hinder "job creators," cutting taxes, opposing the Affordable Care Act, backing the annual "back-to-school" sales tax holiday and supporting the private space industry.

"The best way to strengthen families, our schools, and fight poverty is through higher paying jobs and a growing economy," Miller said on his website.

But Miller hasn't been an across-the-board vote for GOP leaders.

Miller has opposed fracking and has drawn the ire of free-market groups, such as Americans for Prosperity-Florida, for sponsoring measures in past sessions that would have provided tax credits for film production in Florida.

"There is a different free market principle at play, and that is that the states get to compete and we are in a competitive market with other states," Miller has said in defense of the film tax-credit program. "And right now I believe we can beat those other states. Some of them are doing irrational incentive-based programs that cannot compete for the long-term."

Miller, who didn't have a primary challenger, has outraised and outspent Tuura, picking up $332,585 as of Oct. 21, of which he had spent $284,778. Â The Republican Party of Florida had also spent $50,094 on staffing, fundraising and polling for Miller.

Tuura, who defeated a pair of primary challengers, had raised $110,509, and loaned $10,000 to her campaign as of Oct. 21. Of that, $41,495 had come in since the Aug. 26 primary. Since the primary the Florida Democratic Party had also spent $31,605 on Tuura, from campaign staff to polling.

Comments

Can you "media people" do A_N_Y_T_H_I_N_G without looking for confirmation and support from "Political Science professors", from "whatever" campus "wherever", "ginning up" rhetoric for you ???? I think not;.. and it seems not to the rest of your readers either...

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