Elections 2016: Florida House Of Representatives District 39 Candidate Victor Sims
Growing up in Florida’s foster care system, Victor Sims says he lacked the stability of a permanent home and supportive family.
After being adopted at the age of 11 — considered old for a foster child — he says he took an interest in helping other children like him across Florida, but specifically in Polk County.
Age: 21 Education: University of South Florida, St. Petersburg Occupation: McDonald’s manager Political experience: National Foster Youth Alumni Policy Council
Sims says that interest turned into a passion for education and equal representation for Florida’s youngsters, and that’s why he’s running for District 39 in the Florida House of Representatives. The recent University of South Florida graduate, who turns 21 days before the election, is the youngest candidate running not only for state representative, but also for any office on the local ballot.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve been taught is ‘no taxation without representation,’ and we’ve got African-Americans who are represented, we’ve got Hispanics who are represented, we have Asians being represented, and women being represented. But one group who is always overlooked is youth,” Sims says.
Sims, a Democrat, considers his platform to be moderate, and focuses on foster care, education and health care. Other parts of his platform include the economy, the environment and better transportation.
The political newcomer is running against two-term Republican incumbent Neil Combee.
“We question why foster children have such low college rates and why 56 percent of them will drop out of high school by the time they’re 16,” Sims says. “These statistics are horrible, and Combee voted no on a bill that would supply funding to make sure these children have the proper transportation to get to school.”
Sims also differs from his candidate, he says, by visiting neighborhoods rather than buying advertisements and political signs. Sims believes it is much more valuable to walk from door to door and speak with the voters of his district.
“If someone showed a picture of me to people who are in my district, they could probably recognize me and say, ‘He knocked on my door!’ or ‘I met him at an event!’ ” Sims says.
Although his age could be considered a disadvantage by some, Sims has done an extensive amount of work with various parts of the government. He was involved in student affairs as an undergraduate studying psychology at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.
Sims, whose campaign finance reports show has raised more than $6,000 as of Oct. 14, has worked with the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families on the subject of youth homelessness. He also held a seat on the National Foster Youth Alumni Policy Council, traveling to Washington, D.C., to talk with politicians, including Jeb Bush. On the local level, he was involved in student government at USF.
Sims says he has the support of his family, school and community during this election, and is focused on reaching the voters who are closer to his age and may not think it makes a difference to vote.
“It’s important for the younger adults to vote. I’m targeting my age, because they’re the people who really need representation when I go to Tallahassee,” Sims says. “Nobody is representing us in the first place.”
Alyssa Clementi 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