As the national presidential election season approaches, so do local elections for state House seats.
This year in District 10, which includes parts of Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton and Suwanee County, voters will choose between current Republican State Representative Elizabeth Porter and Democrat Jerry Lawrence Bullard.
Elizabeth Porter, 52, lives in Lake City and graduated from Florida State University with her a bachelor’s in communications after receiving an associate degree at Lake City Community College. Porter was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2010.
She said she feels there’s still more she can do in the House.
Porter, a Republican, said she has worked hard for her district. Her top three legislative priorities are education, water, and creating more jobs for families and students. Porter notes her husband is a teacher, and they have two children.
“The last term that a legislator can serve, I think, is when they are at their most influential, and can actually get the interest and concerns of their district at the forefront and have them heard and hopefully acted upon,” Porter said. “There’s a lot of competition between rural North Florida and very metropolitan areas like Miami and Tampa, because they have so many representatives and senators that represent them, and when you only have one representative and one senator to advocate for you, then you better have someone who can be influential in order to try and balance out those great numbers in South Florida and other very metropolitan areas.”
Jerry Lawrence Bullard
Jerry Bullard, 51, has lived in Jasper for three years. He lived in Hamilton County before that, and grew up in White Springs. Bullard received his associate degree in Police Science from Lake City Community College and began a career in law enforcement in 1985. After serving the state of Florida with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol, he retired in 2015. Bullard served as statewide manager for all scale facilities, budget and personnel for the entire state of Florida while working at the Florida Department of Transportation.
Bullard, a Democrat, decided to run for office in January of this year; he felt — after talking to county officials and people living in the area — that District 10 needs different representation. Bullard believes his one mistake during his years in law enforcement was sometimes not listening enough to the people he worked with; he says he’s grown from that and is going to listen to the public in his district.
Bullard’s top legislative priorities are bringing in the right type of jobs, protecting the water and environment, supporting and improving public education, and supporting agriculture. Bullard grew up on a family farm he still operates north of White Springs, and his wife is a schoolteacher.
“I know how government works, and how laws are made and understand the process they go through as far as laws that are introduced and watched how bills are made,” Bullard said. “I grew up on a farm and I am just a well-rounded person, who understands District 10 and the people that represent District 10, and has an idea how our government works in Tallahassee. I think I would be a good combination for all the constituents that I represent.”
Where they stand on…
While both representatives agree and understand how great agriculture and its relation with water is to Florida and its economy, both have a different way of seeing agricultural growth in their districts.
Bullard, who grew up on a family farm, doesn’t like corporate farms moving in on family farms; he wants to ensure land use and best management practices are treated with caution to protect the nearby environment.
“When we talk about ag here, it’s not just farming; we have timberlands that are involved in ag… I would be a huge support in ag and making sure that our family farms stay intact,” he said.
Porter touted how IFAS, a partner with farming areas in Northern Florida, is helping to maximize crops produced from what is already available.
“Farmers in the area, and residents as well, are very good about participating in best management practices. We have a really great location for agriculture and we have farmers that really do care and we have IFAS and local entities that work well with them,” she said.
While Bullard does not support Amendment 1, Porter is all for it and says it’s about people’s right to choose.
“The reason that we voted for that is so that the people would have the opportunity to choose and that’s where it stands now and that is the way that I think it should be,” she said.
Bullard, however, does not support amendment language as written because it is “giving up a monopoly to a specific group or company” and he doesn’t believe it’s what is best for all the consumers.
Amendment 2, an expansion of medical marijuana in the state of Florida, will appear on this election year’s ballot. Porter is against it, Bullard is not.
Porter believes the amendment contains too many loopholes because the level of severity of a condition in order for medical marijuana to be prescribed is not clearly defined.
“I know that the Pharmaceutical Association is not in favor of it and they certainly would be the experts that I think we should look to,” Porter said.
Bullard said he would support any drug prescribed by a doctor and regulated by a medical group.
While Bullard is completely against standardized testing, Porter said it’s needed — to a certain extent.
The extent which Porter refers to is in order to ensure parents that their children are meeting certain benchmarks.
“We’ve greatly reduced the amount of testing. Now, there are federal grants that school systems can get that require that the students be tested in order to get those dollars. That’s their choice, I’m not really in favor of that,” she said. “It’s what we have right now and I think to a certain extent we owe it to the parents to give them the information that the schools are or are not teaching their children, but I think that there’s a different answer in the long run.”
Bullard completely disagrees with standardized testing because he believes that any time, at the local level, the public should listen to the input of school teachers, school board members, and superintendents to develop ideas on how students should be tested.
“Those decisions need to be made with their lead on it instead of some company that is selling a test that says this is the best thing you can do for education. Legislators shouldn’t be making decisions on curriculum,” he said.