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Election 2016: House District 69 Candidate Kathleen Peters

Nov 3, 2016

In politics, you can’t start much smaller than Kathleen Peters did – on the Planning and Zoning Board in tiny South Pasadena (population 4,964) in 2006.

But that post led to election to the City Commission, which led to three years as mayor and then the state House of Representatives in 2012.

Age: 55

Education: St. Petersburg College, associate degree; Eckerd College, bachelor’s degree

Occupation: State legislator

Political Experience: South Pasadena City Commission member and mayor, 2008-2012; unsuccessful candidate for Congress, 2014; Florida House of Representatives, 2012-present

Now, Peters is the incumbent seeking another two-year term with a pledge to remain a pragmatic, can-do lawmaker who understands “the needs of our community, being their voice in Tallahassee and delivering results.”

Peters, 55, has a Democratic challenger, Jennifer Webb of Gulfport, 36, who says District 69 is ready for a fresh face and new ideas.

But when Webb, 36, announced her candidacy in April, Peters countered with a statement that “this is not about Republicans vs. Democrats.”

“I have been proud to champion legislation to improve our broken mental health system, encourage job creation in our region, and foster relationships amongst people of all ideologies,” she said in the statement.

With $346,210, she has raised $200,000 more than Webb and gotten endorsements from the mayors of South Pasadena, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Pinellas Park.

She hasn’t gotten an endorsement from the mayor of St. Petersburg, however, and not just because Rick Kriseman is a Democrat.

Peters has sharply criticized St. Petersburg for dumping millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into the waters of Pinellas County. In a campaign video titled “Water is our life,” she vows to “hold local governments accountable for polluting.”

Another campaign video touts Peters as a “tireless advocate” for mental health reform.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a fellow Republican, praises her for recognizing that county “jails had become de facto mental health facilities” and pushing legislation to provide better “preventative services and treatment” for mentally ill people.

Peters moved to Pinellas in 1985. She earned an associate degree at St. Petersburg College and a bachelor’s in human development from Eckerd College. She also raised four sons and likes to call herself a former Little League mom.

Before election to the Legislature, she was a development director of the YMCA and vice president of public policy for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.

When longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young died in 2013, Peters sought the Republican nomination to succeed him.

She offered blistering criticism of congressional leaders, whom she called “the weak-willed, the preening and the posturing men kicking the can down the road, running up bigger and bigger deficits and inflicting hardships on the American people.”

But her campaign fell short. She lost the nomination to current Congressman, U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Information from the Tampa Bay Times and SaintPetersBlog.com was used in this report.

This story was produced by student journalists attending the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department. This story was produced as part of the Media and the Elections class this semester, under the leadership of instructor Robert Hooker.