Florida faces serious challenges ranging from demand for better access to affordable health care to parents’ frustration with the emphasis on standardized testing in public schools. There are disagreements over how much control to give local governments, whether to overhaul the criminal justice system and how to invest in transportation options. Hot-button issues such as legalizing recreational marijuana, legalizing sports betting and limiting abortion rights also may come up next year.
Joe Wicker | District 59, Republicans
The question for Republicans in this race is whether to step backward or move forward. For those who want to move forward, Joe Wicker is the best choice.
Wicker, 40, is an Army veteran who owns a home health agency and narrowly lost the Republican primary for this seat in 2012. He has a solid, pro-growth agenda that reflects the core of his party. He is a small-business advocate who wants to cut government regulations and create a stronger business environment. He opposes any new taxes and supports school choice. Wicker wants to make health care costs more transparent by enabling patients to see the cost of services up front. He is open to working with Democrats on reforming the justice system by looking at giving judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent offenders.
Ronda Storms, 52, was a divisive figure during her time on the Hillsborough County Commission, where she served from 1998 to 2006 before serving a forgettable six years in the Florida Senate. Her penchant for inflaming battles against those she looked upon as different did not serve her constituents or epitomize public service.
Wicker can be expected to be a reliable vote for the House’s conservative Republican leadership. His energy and professional demeanor could make him an effective freshman legislator. Local Republican leaders have lined up behind Wicker, an indication he would solidly support the east county communities of Palm River, Brandon and Valrico.
In the Republican primary for Florida House District 59, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Joe Wicker.