When she ran for the Legislature two years ago, Lorena Grizzle was clobbered by a well-financed Republican incumbent in a Republican-leaning House district.
So why is she trying again?
Education: St. Petersburg College, associate degree; Colorado State University, bachelor’s degree; University of South Florida, two master’s degrees
Occupation: Public school teacher
Political Experience: Unsuccessful candidate for Florida House of Representatives, 2014
The district still looks reliably Republican. Her opponent is the same incumbent, retired businessman, Rep. Larry Ahern. And she has raised only $9,428 – a pittance compared to his $118,191.
Grizzle, 63, seems to relish the role of underdog.
She left a job at the Florida Lottery, where she was once statewide saleswoman of the year, to become a teacher, then earned two master’s degrees from the University of South Florida while teaching. She is now a special education teacher and works in an after-school tutoring program.
In her campaign appearances and literature, Grizzle tells stories about two other underdogs.
One was her sister, who died of renal failure. If the state of Florida had accepted millions of federal dollars to expand its Medicaid program, hundreds of thousands of people like her sister could have gotten inexpensive medical care, Grizzle said. Her sister might still be alive.
The other was a 7-year-old girl in her second grade class. A victim of shaken-baby syndrome, the little girl had seizures and then heart problems that led to her death.
The child could have benefited from medical marijuana, Grizzle said. That’s one of the reasons she supports Amendment 2 in the Nov. 8 election.
You could say that Grizzle was born into politics.
Her mother, the late Mary Grizzle, was the first Republican woman elected to the Legislature – in 1963 – and served for 29 years in the House and Senate. The state office building in Largo is named for her.
As a girl, Lorena Grizzle accompanied her mother to Tallahassee each spring, which meant splitting time between schools in Leon and Pinellas counties.
She earned an associate degree at St. Petersburg College and a bachelor’s in fine arts at Colorado State University.
She worked in real estate and restaurant management before joining the Lottery, where she spent nearly 17 years before becoming a teacher, according to her campaign website. While teaching, she earned two master’s degrees at USF, one in reading education and the other in exceptional student education.
In her campaign, Grizzle pledges to “take Tallahassee out of our public schools and listen to teachers, not the textbook companies and testing corporations” in deciding what’s best for children. She opposes giving public funds to charter schools run by for-profit companies.
She wants to focus more attention on “our urban downtown core areas,” which will become future public transportation hubs, and on small businesses.
She opposes offshore drilling and fracking, a controversial technique for extracting oil and gas from rock; pledges to promote solar energy; and vows to continue the advanced treatment of wastewater – a cause her mother championed in the 1970s.
Grizzle also criticizes Tallahassee leaders for wasting money on special legislative sessions, violations of the Public Records Law and defense of redistricting maps that the courts ultimately rejected.
“Transparent and accessible government is something I believe in and will practice as a state representative,” she says on her website.
Information from wmnf.org and the Tampa Bay Times 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.