A rematch between two conservatives is shaping up in the 21st House district as Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, will face former Putnam County Commissioner Linda Myers, the Democratic candidate he defeated by the skin of his teeth in 2008.
Van Zant won the 2008 election by a small margin, edging Myers by fewer than 2,000 votes. The district stretches through the inland of North Florida, encompassing all of Putnam County, the southern half of Clay County, the eastern part of Marion County and smaller parts of Bradford, Lake and Volusia Counties.
Van Zant won headlines for his opposition to abortion and the gaming compact with the Seminole Indian tribe. Van Zant even denounced the gaming compact as evil during debate in the House.
He did not back off those comments on Friday. It is evil, he said. We have no business making a pact with what is considered by our federal government to be a foreign nation -- be it Seminoles, Arabs or anyone else.
Van Zant said that for every $1 the state made off the pact, Floridians lost $6. It is a tax upon Florida and nobody mentioned that, he said.
Van Zant has introduced numerous measures in the House to oppose abortion, including parts later included in HB 1143, a bill requiring women considering having abortions in the first trimester to have an ultrasound and forbidding Florida taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.
Agreeing with supporters and opponents of abortion that ultrasounds reduces the number of abortions, Van Zant said, This information needs to given to every mother for her health, for her babys health.
To call abortion health-care is wrong, said Van Zant, who earned a doctorate of theology. Thats an abomination to God.
Van Zant said he was optimistic about socially conservative measures in the future, with the Senate more inclined to back these bills.
Despite Van Zants conservative stances, he is facing a challenge from a right-of-center Democrat in Linda Myers, who served eight years as a Putnam County commissioner. Asked if she is a conservative, Myers replied, Absolutely.
I think social issues are important to Florida, said Myers who added that she agreed with Van Zant on some social issues. But it was not a productive use of the Legislatures time. Myers said with the Legislature meeting for only 60 days, Van Zant needed to focus more on the economic crisis that Florida was facing instead of concentrating on social issues.
Myers has taken Van Zant to task for abandoning the conservative ideals of lower taxes, smaller government and opposition to more federal spending.
"Since being elected, the incumbent not only flipped his platform, it appears his entire belief system went out the window as well," said Myers in her campaign announcement. "The speed by which he flipped is what should astound most people. He said he was opposed to new taxes -- even signing a pledge -- and then passed a budget with billions in new fees and borrowed tax dollars."
Myers also took Van Zant to task for his support of offshore drilling. He was one of the first supporters of drilling, said Myers.
Van Zant defended his conservative credentials on fiscal issues. He said he was proud of the Legislatures reduction of regulations and state spending, adding that advocates of smaller government would have opportunities to reduce the size of the state government in the 2011 session.
Weve attempted to reduce regulation in the state of Florida, said Van Zant, noting that the House repealed more than 150 measures during the 2010 session.
He said that he expected the Senate to be more fiscally conservative under incoming President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.
Since filing on February 10, Myers has raised just under $7,500. Van Zant has raised almost $67,000, but has already spent over $32,000.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.