Laura Novosad recognizes she faces an uphill battle as a Democrat running against a popular Republican for state House District 80 to represent eastern Collier and Hendry County.© naplesnews.com Laura Novosad and Lauren Melo
Novosad, 61, of LaBelle, who describes herself as socially liberal but fiscally conservative, said she is fed up with inaction of state lawmakers.
She fears further unraveling of the Florida economy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the outfall to struggling families.© Submitted Laura Novosad
“I got tired of the big divide between the haves and the have nots,” she said. “I’m running because I just couldn’t sit down and watch it anymore. We are not getting the leadership we need from the Florida Legislature.”
Novosad is running against Naples businesswoman Lauren Melo, 53, in the Nov. 3 general election. The seat is being vacated by Byron Donalds, a Republican who is running for Congress.
District 80 encompasses a region east of Naples and includes the communities of The Vineyards, Orangetree, Immokalee and all of Hendry County. There are 156,000 residents in the district.
State representatives serve two-year terms and earn an annual salary of $29,697.
Melo, 53, won in the Republican primary with 58.2% of the vote against two opponents, Drew-Montez Clark, a chiropractor and businessman; and Victor Dotres, a Naples school teacher.
She was an early favorite with endorsements from Donalds, state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and state Rep. Bob Rummel.© Submitted Lauren Melo
According to Sept. 18 campaign financial reports, Melo has raised $140,829 and spent $128,264.
Novosad has raised $13,921 and spent $5,095, according to her filing.
Melo currently is president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors and owns her own brokerage firm, Florida’s Realty Specialists.
Novosad has worked in real estate since 2010 with Premier Plus Realty in Naples and Fort Myers.
She and her husband, Richard Novosad, previously lived in Golden Gate Estates. After she earned her degree in special education from Florida Gulf Coast University, she was a special education teacher at Sabal Palm Elementary School and elsewhere.
Later she served as volunteer coordinator at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Novosad said the state’s economy is being upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unemployment system is dysfunctional. The state needs to tighten its belt and put some projects on hold while focusing on helping families get through tough times.
She said one example of a project that should be tabled for a while is the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, referred to as M-CORES, that would involve three toll roads from Collier to Polk counties.
“Let’s think about how we are spending our money,” Novosad said. “We are in real trouble, and with evictions and foreclosures (coming), we will be in deeper trouble.”
Melo has a different view of the toll roads project.
“It’s important to keep up with infrastructure needs,” she said. “We have all seen the issues a couple years back when it comes to evacuating South Florida and also the endless I-4 construction in Central Florida that is a result of getting a little behind the curve with infrastructure.”
On the state budget where Florida law requires the Legislature to pass a balanced budget, Melo said member projects and discretionary spending may need to be cut as a starting point.
“Previous legislatures have had to go through similar exercises, we will have some tough budget decisions, no different than families managing their own budgets during this crisis.”
One area where Melo does not envision cuts is in education funding; it may actually get a boost to give education options for parents and to keep schools safe.
Novosad, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Hendry County, said the lack of affordable housing needs to be addressed. More than 900,000 households pay more than 50% of their income on housing.
Her approach would be to stop diverting funds from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust and paying back the $2 billion that lawmakers have used for general fund purposes, she said.
The dedicated revenue source for affordable housing needs to be used as intended to provide stability for working families, she said.
“I think we need to make families stronger,” Novosad said. “I spent my whole life being in the middle class and being in the middle class is why this country is strong,”
She supports the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and said Florida needs to expand Medicaid to more low-income Floridians so they can have health care and get out from the crush of medical debt.
Protecting the environment from over-development and protecting water quality are both critical, she said.
She has insight into how farmers want what is right for the environment; her husband has worked in farm produce for decades and is co-owner of a produce cooperative, Magnolia Packing Inc., in Clewiston.
“The farmers I know don’t want dirty water,” she said. “They want to be part of the solution.”
Melo, who was born and raised in eastern Collier, said she decided to run for the state House because she wants everyone in the district to have the opportunities to live the American dream.
She started her own business in 1991 when she launched a trucking company that grew to a fleet of more than 100 trucks.
The three top issues are health care, the economy and clean water, she said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to strike a balance between protecting people at high risk and stopping the bleeding of business owners and families.
Many businesses have closed and the state needs to get back to work, she said.
Novosad describes Melo as pro-development, which Melo says is outdated if she is referencing the pro-development verses the environment argument.
“Florida has come a long way and is sophisticated enough to manage both needs responsibly,” Melo said. “Unfortunately that has not always been the case so we need to make sure we continue to fund projects, like the Everglades restoration.
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This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Democrat Laura Novosad challenges Republican Lauren Melo for vacated Florida District 80 seat
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/democrat-laura-novosad-challenges-republican-lauren-melo-for-vacated-florida-district-80-seat/ar-BB19PFRw