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SD3 Candidate Survey: Loranne Ausley

AusleyPortrait.jpg
Patrick Sternad
/
WFSU News
Democratic state Sen. Loranne Ausley at her Tallahassee home in December 2021.

Democratic state Sen. Loranne Ausley has served in the Florida legislature for more than a decade, starting as a representative in the state House before getting elected to the Senate in 2020.

Ausley is running against Republican political newcomer Corey Simon in the November election to keep her District 3 seat. Ausley doesn't have a primary challenger.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Senate District 3 is larger than it was when Ausley was elected to represent it two years ago. Lawmakers redrew the district's boundaries earlier this year. They removed Calhoun County and added Suwannee, Dixie and Lafayette Counties. District 3 now covers 13 counties, including the Big Bend region and the counties bordering it to the east and west.

WFSU Public Media sent a list of questions to both Senate District 3 candidates. Simon's campaign didn't respond to at least two requests to complete the survey.

Ausley's responses to the candidates' questionnaire have been edited for clarity and accuracy.

What do you see as the top issues facing state Senate District 3 and how would you address them? 

Gas, housing, child care, insurance, internet access - they all cost too much. We need to make it easier to build affordable housing, and we need to spend state money to make this happen. We need childcare that working folks can afford. We need property insurance reform so that insurance is available and affordable. We need broadband internet access throughout the district, particularly in the currently underserved rural counties. I am leading the charge to bring together local, state, and federal resources to make broadband access a reality in District 3.

We also must support the fiscally constrained counties that have current and pressing needs for infrastructure like water, sewer, public buildings, and roads. Over the last two legislative sessions, I have found creative ways to support these rural counties - bringing home a mix of state and federal money totalling [sic] over $1 billion. In summary, these issues require a commitment to working together to benefit all Floridians, a commitment to stopping divisive cultural [sic] wars, and a commitment to focus on the actual needs of Floridians. 

How should state lawmakers address the issue of gun violence?

Gun violence is not something we can police our way out of – but we can get these assault-style weapons of war off of our streets right now. At the same time, we have to address the root causes of gun violence – poverty, education, systemic incarceration – and get involved in the lives of young people early on, before they make these choices that will ruin their lives and their communities.

Would you support legislation allowing Floridians to openly carry a firearm without a permit, also known as “constitutional carry”? Why or why not?

Law abiding citizens should be able to carry a firearm if they have a permit for that gun. Eliminating common-sense permitting makes us all less safe, as has been reiterated time and time again by law enforcement in our community, throughout the state of Florida, and across the country. I stand with them on this issue.

What should lawmakers do about abortion access? Please explain your position.

Lawmakers should follow the Florida constitution which contains an express right to privacy. I have consistently opposed the draconian measures that Florida Republicans have imposed on Florida women, from waiting periods to the most recent 15-week ban on abortion with no exceptions for horrific circumstances such as rape, incest or pregnancy complications.

The 15-week ban is clearly in violation of the Florida constitution and I will do everything in my power to ensure that women can make these highly personal decisions about their reproductive health without government interference.

What should lawmakers do to make housing more affordable?

In 1992, the Florida legislature created the Sadowski Fund as a dedicated revenue source to keep affordable housing projects thriving. For the last 2 decades, legislators have raided this fund year after year, until finally we are at this crisis point. Recent legislative action to stop raiding the fund is a good step in the right direction, but it is too little, too late. To get out of this crisis, we are going to have to get really creative. Programs like the Hometown Heroes that we passed this year will help by providing down-payment assistance for frontline workers, but we didn’t get here overnight and we are not getting out of this crisis overnight.

What more would you do on the issue of property insurance?

Every single day, I hear from someone who simply can no longer afford their insurance, and these folks are forced to make really tough choices. The bill that passed in special session had some good provisions around safety inspections, but it also limits homeowner’s rights to sue their insurance companies and I worry that not enough was done in the short-term to actually bring rates down. By focusing on litigation rather than the true cost drivers of the crisis, it may take months or even years for Floridians to feel relief. We need to address rising housing costs, and take aggressive action on climate change, which is playing a significant role in driving costs up as extreme weather events grow more frequent. 

Over the past 20 years, Florida has increased options for students, some choice advocates see vouchers for all as the end goal. Where do you stand on school choice?

Over the years, Florida Republicans have chipped away at the constitutional guarantee of free, efficient high-quality public schools, literally starving our public school system, all in the name of “school choice”. These vouchers masked as “scholarship” programs are nothing but clever schemes to redirect money that should be going to strengthen our public schools -- but instead are sending millions of dollars to private and religious schools.

As more and more kids are pulled out of traditional public schools, the financially strapped school systems are left in a position where they cannot provide uniform, efficient, safe, secure, high-quality education for the remaining kids which leads to more kids being pulled out, and on and on in a vicious cycle. Bit by bit, cut by cut, these vouchers/scholarships – are slowly killing our public schools. I have consistently opposed these efforts and remain a fierce advocate for our kids, our traditional public schools and our teachers. 

What are some of your top energy, environmental and agricultural concerns and how do you define that? 

Senate District 3 includes over 140 miles of coastline, 13 rivers, 8 first magnitude springs and Apalachicola Bay - all unique natural resources that are the very reasons people visit and live in this beautiful part of our state. We must safeguard our land and water for future generations.

Agriculture is also an important economic driver in North Florida employing over 65,000 people and generating $5 billion annually across the 13 counties of Senate District 3.

Climate change is the top concern that crosses all sectors. Florida agricultural producers know that extreme weather conditions are impacting their operations and I am encouraged to see interesting partnerships develop between and among agricultural and environmental interests. I am focused on efforts that bring these sectors together to address the tough issues head on by incentivizing best management practices. Examples include the Florida Wildlife Corridor that is preserving large tracts of land for wildlife protection, and improving access to precision agriculture to limit water, fertilizer and pesticide use.

What should voters know about you that they don’t already?

I am a 4 time Ironman finisher - which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run. I love the training that gets me outside in this beautiful district and I actually really love the competitive aspect of racing and I am so grateful that I can still get out there and compete. 

What’s your favorite book? And why? What are you currently reading?

I loved “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” by Jan Phillip Sendker because it is a beautiful love story that includes a blind protagonist. I am currently going back and forth between “The Last Thing He Told Me” - quick easy read, and “Parent Nation” - a new look at the neuroscience of early childhood development.

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