- September 1, 2017
With District 47 Florida House Rep. Mike Miller leaving his seat to run for U.S. Congress, Republican Stockton Reeves and Democrat Anna Eskamani each are looking for your vote to send them to Tallahassee as the new representative.
Reeves, 54, is a Winter Park resident and defeated opponent Mikaela Nix in the primary election for the Republican nomination. Eskamani, 28, is an Orlando resident and defeated Lou Forges in the primary election for the Democratic nomination.
The early-voting period in Orange County runs through Sunday, Nov. 4. For more information about early voting, visit the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website at ocfelections.com.
1. Why are you running for House District 47?
I am an Orlando native and daughter of working class immigrants from Iran. When I was thirteen years old, I lost my mom to cancer. That loss is what inspires me each and everyday to fight for Florida’s hard working families. As a first time candidate, my motivation to run for public office is grounded in my love for community, a desire to facilitate the success of others, and a passion for the issues that matter the most -- like protecting our environment, defending our public schools, ensuring access to health care, and reducing gun violence.
2. Describe three reasons why constituents should vote for you.
My professional background, leadership skills, and strong ethics are three reasons for the great people of House District 47 to vote for me. I have spent the last ten years of my life serving others, starting at the University of Central Florida (UCF). While at UCF, I earned two Bachelor Degrees, two Master's Degrees, and am currently pursuing a PhD in Public Affairs while teaching part-time. For the last six years I worked in the nonprofit sector, rising to become the Senior Director of Public Affairs at your local Planned Parenthood affiliate, managing a team of six across twenty-two counties with eleven health centers. As a nonprofit professional, I know what it’s like to fire, hire, and layoff people. I know how to manage tight budgets and timelines, and how to solve problems alongside business partners and governmental agencies. These leadership skills have granted me with the ability to build bridges when I can, and hold people and corporations accountable when I must. Our district deserves an authentic and honest leader who isn’t bought-out by special interests like fossil fuel companies and the NRA. It’s likely why I have earned the endorsement of 79 individuals and organizations, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, and the Florida Conservation Voters.
3. If elected, what will your priorities be in office?
Protecting our environment, defending our public schools, ensuring access to health care, and reducing gun violence are my top priorities. Florida had the fifth-highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, and now is the time to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. We also know that Florida ranks 50/50 on mental health funding -- this impacts everyday Floridians including veterans with PTSD, first responders, and our young people. In addition to mental health funding we must guarantee a pay raise for our public school teachers, provide additional support to special ed programming, and eliminate high stakes testing while ensuring a path of success for our students whether they choose to attend a traditional higher ed institution, or seek advancement through a technical college. Finally, I will bring science back to the Florida legislature and hold polluters accountable while combating the realities of climate change. Sea levels are rising, storms are more intense, and our state is surrounded by red tide and blue/green algae. We need legislators who challenge polluters and special interests -- not legislators who take money from them.
4. What is your stance on the Home Rule, and how should state and local governments function together?
Our state legislature often preaches “small government” yet every legislative session they practice “big government” policies through the destruction of Home Rule and preemption, which strips away a local government’s ability to make place-based decisions. Academics tell us that good policy is incremental, and local. We must grant our local cities and counties with the ability to make their own personal decisions, thus granting local citizens with the opportunity to engage with these decisions at a more intimate level too. For Winter Park and surrounding cities, we know that traffic congestion, alongside density, green space, and community safety are local challenges that local leaders are best equipped to solve. You need a legislator that gives them resources, not restrictions. Someone who focuses on prosperity, not politics.
5. What are the biggest problems facing Florida public education, and how would you address them?
I am a proud graduate of Orange County Public Schools and a passionate protector of public education. Teachers deserve improved pay, access to leadership development experiences, and the freedom to teach beyond a test. Right now in Orange County, some students are subjected to as much as 1125 minutes (nearly 19 hours) of assessment testing per year. That’s not ok-- students need less high stakes testing, more opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, access to greater civics education, and STEM curriculum. While state leaders touted a $101.50 per student increase in public education this year, all but $.47 of that funding was mandated to be spent for new obligations being imposed on our school districts. Florida must invest in public education, and not divert tax dollars to private for-profit Charter Schools. We also need to fund school safety measures-- I will never arm our teachers, and will instead invest in trained Student Resource Officers alongside mental health providers.
6. Both you and your opponent have said the Sunshine State should lead the way for renewable solar energy. How is this accomplished?
Not only does Florida not have clean-energy targets, but according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, we are third in the U.S. in terms of potential rooftop solar and 12th in installations, with only .65% of our state energy coming from solar. Step one to expanding renewable energy is to not be bought-out by special interests who are proactively restricting the growth of solar energy. This includes fossil fuel and utility companies, and though my campaign has not accepted one penny from these industries, my opponent has accepted thousands of dollars. Florida is the perfect state to pursue solar energy, but fossil fuel companies fear irrelevancy if they allow local growth of solar, because the expansion of rooftop solar could be a threat to their role of supplying traditional energy sources. With that said, we lack behind many other states when it comes to solar policies, and need to establish a renewable portfolio standard and allow power purchase agreements. These are two policies that have driven solar investments in other states. People want solar no matter their policies, and I cannot wait to work with my colleagues across the aisle to truly make Florida the Sunshine State.
7. How important are the arts to Florida, and why?
Very important. The arts matter because it instills values and translates experiences across space and time. It can help bridge gaps across class and culture, teach public speaking skills to the shyest of people, and create an avenue for expression for those of any ability. As the National Art Education Association points out, art is beneficial for the artist as an outlet for their work, but it is also economically viable: The creation, management and distribution of art employs many, and attracts tourists. In fact, Florida’s Department of State declared Florida’s arts-and-cultural sector to be a $4.7 billion economic engine responsible for 132,366 full-time jobs. Despite this, the Florida Legislature under one-party rule has slashed the state’s grant program — for museums, theaters, science centers and more — by nearly 90 percent last session, from $25 million down to $2.6 million. That’s shameful, and I will fight for a dedicated source of arts funding when you send me to the Florida House.
8. Affordable housing is an ongoing problem in Central Florida. What is the solution?
We know all too well that Florida has an affordable housing crisis. I grew up in a working class family right here in Central Florida and shared a bedroom with my twin sister until I was thirteen years old. We struggled to make ends meet, and that’s the reality for thousands of Florida families whether they are renters or homeowners. In fact, 911,000 of our poorest residents are paying more than half their income to housing. This problem will only worsen as Florida continues to experience a population growth of seniors and families -- including families from Puerto Rico. One immediate solution is to stop raiding the Sadowski Fund, and to support “Housing First” programs. We know that rapid re-housing has proven to be the best approach to getting people out of homelessness but it requires collaboration between business, government, faith, and nonprofit communities in order to work. We also need the buy-in of landlords and developers, and the construction of more mix-used housing. Tiny homes have evolved to become a unique solution to affordable housing, and I would love to see our state pilot tiny home communities as a means to desegregate poverty, and reduce concentrated disadvantage. Public transportation, alongside attracting higher paying jobs, are a part of the solution too.