Higher ed funding key issue in Fla. District 7 race
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 7:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 7:38 p.m.
A University of Florida alumnus is facing a current student in the race to represent a redrawn Florida Senate district that includes Alachua, Bradford and Clay counties.
Home: Fleming Island
Occupation: Managing partner of the Orange Park law firm of Kopelousos and Bradley
Political experience: Former Clay County Commissioner
Family: Wife Jennifer and three children
Occupation: University of Florida student
Political experience: None
Republican nominee Rob Bradley is a lawyer and former Clay County commissioner. He was running unopposed before the Florida Democratic Party paid the qualifying fee for a UF undergraduate, William Mazzota, to enter the race.
Both Bradley and Mazzota are emphasizing their UF connections in their bid for state Senate District 7. Mazzota, a 21-year-old environmental science and political science major, said he's against tuition increases and cuts to Bright Futures scholarships in part due to his personal experience.
"As a student, as somebody who's lived through what I view as failed policies … I think I'd be able to offer a fresh insight into a lot of these issues," he said.
Bradley, 42, said Gainesville and UF are "very dear" to him as the places where he met his wife and earned both a bachelor's degree in telecommunication and law degree. He's currently a trustee for St. Johns River State College and said higher education is a passion.
"I really think job growth is tied to a world-class education system," he said.
Alachua County was represented before redistricting by Steve Oelrich, a former Alachua County sheriff who made a failed bid for Congress. While the old district centered around Alachua County and had a Democratic majority, the district now leans Republican with the addition of Clay County.
Bradley is a former criminal prosecutor who now specializes in municipal law as managing partner of an Orange Park law firm. He was a gubernatorial appointment to a Clay County Commission seat that had been held by a commissioner who was indicted.
Bradley said he helped implement an ethics code and the county's largest property tax cut.
"I feel like we steadied the ship and really restored trust in the local government," he said.
Mazzota said he interned with Gainesville City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins, working on transportation issues, and Alachua County's budget office. He plans on attending law school after he graduates in May, although he would delay his graduation if elected.
He received UF's University Scholars grant to research ecological restoration work in Paynes Prairie, and said he would work to protect Florida's springs if elected.
"I think Florida's waters are extremely important, and they're critically endangered at this point," he said.
Both Bradley and Mazzota said they would restore cuts to UF, but have a different approach to tuition. Bradley said he would have voted for the so-called pre-eminence bill vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, which would have let UF seek higher than 15 percent annual tuition increases.
"I think the University of Florida needs to be the flagship university of the system; we need to be a pre-eminent, world-class university; and we need to do everything that we can both as a region and a state to make sure that that happens," he said.
Mazzota said he opposes tuition increases even of 15 percent, saying that caps to Bright Futures scholarships mean an increasing burden on students.
"It means more student loans; it means more debt," he said.
Contact staff reporter Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or email@example.com. Visit www.thecampussun.com for more stories on the University of Florida.
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