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Politics

Energy at Center Stage in Democratic Primary Fight for FL House Seat

May 5, 2010 - 6:00pm

Former Leon County Democratic Party chairman Rick Minor is posing a serious primary challenge to Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and is making her support for offshore drilling one of the central issues of the campaign.

Minor sent out releases Thursday supporting Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and other Democrats' calls for Gov. Charlie Crist to enact a special session of the Legislature to tackle offshore drilling. Sink and the Democrats are hoping Florida voters will be able to amend the state constitution in November to ban offshore drilling.

When I stepped into this race last summer, I did so because I disagreed with Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda's vote for increased oil drilling off Florida's coast, said Minor in the releases, maintaining that his opponent supported offshore drilling twice in the 2009 session. One of those votes would have allowed oil rigs as close as 3 miles from our shores. This was unacceptable.

Her votes in favor of offshore drilling are indicative of her poor judgment, Minor said in a conversation with Sunshine State News.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda defended her record Thursday, pointing to her support for renewable energy and recycling during her tenure in the House.

I never promoted, supported or defended offshore drilling, she said.

She said one of the votes Minor referred to involved a much larger energy package. I dont think we should be doing any more drilling.

While Rehwinkel Vasilinda had not seen the proposed amendment that Sink was endorsing, she said she is open to the idea of the governor calling a special session and hopes that renewable energy would be on the table. She expressed strong opposition to nuclear power as well as other more traditional sources of energy.

I dont like nuclear, she said. I dont like oil and I dont like coal.

Local conservative leader Ann Yarko, who is running for Rehwinkel Vasilindas seat as a Republican, was more supportive of offshore drilling, saying that American companies would handle the drilling process with much more concerns for environmental safety than competition from Russia or China.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda was elected to the House in 2008, defeating Republican Peter Boulware, a former professional football player who played for Florida State in college, by a margin of fewer than 500 votes. She may be in for another tough fight in 2010 as Minors campaign has kept up with her fundraisng efforts the last two quarters.

Our campaigns success shows the incumbent is in trouble, said Minor. I think the voters of District 9 are looking for a change.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859

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