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Politics / Issues
00000174-121d-d47e-a1f7-523d2c950000 WUSF News regularly collaborates with University of South Florida journalism classes in Tampa and St. Petersburg, providing students an opportunity to share their work with the greater Tampa Bay area.Some of the projects have included:“Past Plates” - a podcast and written stories produced in Spring 2017 that look into people’s memories and traditions related to food, food culture and food business in south St. Petersburg. In fall 2016, students profiled candidates running for Tampa Bay area elected offices. They were produced as part of the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications' Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs classes; and as part of the Media and Elections class at USF St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department.In 2015, WUSF journalists joined the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau in creating oral histories of residents of St. Petersburg's historic Midtown neighborhood. That work was featured on WUSF's Florida Matters public affairs show.

Elections 2016: Florida House District 74 Candidate Julio Gonzalez

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Julio Gonzalez

Julio Gonzalez said he feels his Republican-heavy district is poised to return him and his conservative agenda to the Florida House, where the Catholic has fought for religious freedom against what he calls unconstitutional laws.

Gonzalez represents District 74 in Florida’s House of Representatives. He was first elected in 2014.

Age: 52 Education: University of Miami School of Medicine, Navy's Flight Surgery School, Aviation Medicine, University of Florida's University Medical Center, Stetson University College of Law Occupation: Orthopedic Surgeon, Attorney Political Experience: Florida House of Representatives for District 74

In the 2016 legislative session, Gonzalez sponsored HB 401, the Protection of Religious Freedom. The bill language says it is aimed at providing immunity for organizations and businesses that refuse to perform actions or serve people contrary to religious or moral beliefs. It was applauded by conservatives but attacked as being anti-LGBT.

The bill died in the Civil Justice Subcommittee, but Gonzalez said he will continue to pursue similar legislation in other bills.

He was a co-sponsor of another controversial bill, the HB 43 Pastor Protection Act. Now signed into law, HB 43 protects and ensures clergy rights to refuse to perform a wedding that violates religious beliefs, such as for same-sex marriages. It was opposed by such groups as Equality Florida, which said it opened a can of worms. It also brought lots of negative mail for Gonzalez.

“… I got so much hate mail and just the most vile language and threats to my life,” Gonzalez said.

On the economy, Gonzalez said he believes that small business is the foundation for the middle class and that it drives competition and creates more opportunities for the community. As a conservative, he said he places more reliance on individuals and the marketplace to achieve societal goals.

The heart of Gonzalez’ campaign, he said, is built around restoring and maintaining the Constitution.

“Over the past 100 years the federal government has continued to devour power against the people,” Gonzalez said.

He said his passion for the Constitution led him to write his second book, “The Federalist Pages,” in which he shares what factors he believes made the Constitution ‘truly magnificent.’

According to Florida Department of State reports from mid-October, Gonzalez has received $105,620 in contributions towards his campaign, and has spent $45,050.63. Gonzalez’ most recent contribution was received from Wells Fargo for $500.

He also has received endorsements by several public officials, such as Congressman Vern Buchanan, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and State Senator Kelli Stargel.

Briana Mumford is a student journalist attending the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. This story was produced as part of the school’s Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs class this semester, under the leadership of instructors Wayne Garcia and Wendy Whitt.