LAKELAND — Hoping to land a third term representing Florida House District 40, Lakeland’s Colleen Burton, a Republican, faces a familiar opponent in Democrat Shandale Terrell.
Burton easily won the 2016 race, garnering 39,660 votes, or 59 percent. Her challenger, who also resides in Lakeland, received 27,003 votes, or 41 percent.
This time around Burton’s chances are propelled by her two, two-year terms of experience and a campaign bank account that has collected $231,841 in cash donations, compared to Terrell’s $9,687 as of the most recent reporting period.
It’s a lopsided equation that speaks of the incumbent’s pull with constituents in a district that encompasses a majority of the greater Lakeland area north of County Road 540A and west of U.S. 98.
Burton’s backing extends to statewide political action committees representing such industries as real estate, telecommunications, agriculture and medical.
Her $1,000 contributors include Kyle Story, a Lake Wales citrus grower, and Bernie Little Distributors of Eaton Park.
Much of Terrell’s support comes from individuals, especially those representing the education field. The Democratic Women’s Club of Florida kicked in $300. He also has received about $4,800 in help through “in-kind” donations of campaign materials, like postcards and stamps, a much higher percentage of in-kind donations than most campaigns receive.
Burton’s key issues include water protections, defending the Second Amendment, improving education and workforce development. She sides with her party’s stance on illegal immigration issues, and believes states can help influence doctrine at the federal level.
“We can be a voice together,” she said, “sending a message to the federal government. But it’s up to the federal government to affect immigration issues directly.”
Married and mother to three grown children, Burton, 60, said that if re-elected she hopes to continue her work on legislative committees devoted to health care. “I would like to dig a little deeper to see what we can do to help those (enrolled) in managed health care; are we doing enough.”
Burton said she also will continue to help create an environment for attracting business to Florida and her district, lifting people without health insurance into jobs that will cover their needs.
“The best thing we can do for people is have a great economy with access to great jobs,” she said. “I think people want to work and want to be able to take care of their families. Most employers offer an opportunity for health insurance, (though) it’s not inexpensive. It’s a challenge.”
Terrell, 43, a support facilitator of exceptional student education for the Polk County School District, said he continues committed to education reforms, and if elected, vows to work toward better pay for everyone employed in public K-12 education. He also is committed to prioritizing better funding of public schools in general.
Florida’s controversial stand your ground law also weighs on Terrell, who said he hopes for an opportunity to influence a rewriting of the law to bring clarity and lessen abuses.
“I don’t have anything against citizens protecting their homes with the law,” he said, “but people abuse laws. I believe the law can be tweaked to better serve all citizens.”
Terrell said he makes up for a lack of political experience by walking his district and talking to constituents about their concerns. Those one-on-one encounters are reflected in a platform that includes working for better health care and better wages.
“I was born and raised here in District 40; I’m home grown. I know the pros and cons of the issues here,” he said. “All I need is an opportunity. I pretty much walked 95 percent of the district. I’ve got holes in my shoes. ”
House members serve two-year terms and are paid $29,700 annually.
Eric Pera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7528.