Republicans running for Florida House District 72 debate at political forum

The Lakewood Ranch Republican Club hosted a political forum for candidates vying for election to the Florida House District 72 seat.
The Lakewood Ranch Republican Club hosted a political forum for candidates vying for election to the Florida House District 72 seat.

Four Republican candidates for the Florida House District 72 seat to be vacated on June 30 by Tommy Gregory duked out during a political forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club on Wednesday.

Gregory is stepping away from the seat to accept a position as president of the State College of Florida, and the four Republican candidates have quickly filed to compete.

The candidates include former Manatee County Planning Commission Chairman Bill Conerly, AG Creative founder Alyssa Gay, attorney and real estate expert Richard Green, and Manatee County School Board member Richard Tatem.

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They will be challenged during the general election by lone Democrat Lesa Miller. She was not present at the Republican candidate forum.

Richard Green

Florida House District 72 candidate Richard Green speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.
Florida House District 72 candidate Richard Green speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.

Green is a senior attorney with the Lewis, Longman & Walker law firm. He is experienced in real estate, land use development and environmental matters. He also serves on the Sarasota Medical Pregnancy Center board where he advocates for pro-life medical care for underserved women.

Green said the top three issues state legislators should address are rising costs, environmental concerns and additional insurance reform. He took a pro-life stance, and he supports Florida's six-week abortion ban. He said communities built with a master plan in place have been the best example of smart growth, but cautioned about the political power often granted to developers who spearhead those efforts. He said that, in general, he disagrees with state pre-emptions of home rule although he understands the reasons for it. He believes illegal immigration is a federal matter and is not including the matter as a part of his platform for state office.

Richard Tatem

Florida House District 72 candidate Richard Tatem speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.
Florida House District 72 candidate Richard Tatem speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.

Tatem served in the military as a U.S. Air Force pilot and retired as a colonel. He also worked as an assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He later wrote a book titled "Interviews with the Founders: the way America is now - and the way America is supposed to be." He was elected to the School Board of Manatee County in 2022 but will need to resign to run for the District 72 seat.

Tatem said the top three issues state legislators should address are unfunded mandates, infrastructure needs, and environmental concerns. He took a pro-life stance, and he supports Florida's six-week abortion ban. He said smart growth balances environmental needs and necessary development to accommodate population growth through careful consideration for zoning and planning for proper infrastructure. He said that local home rule is preferable, but said areas where there are multiple municipalities close together can go overboard with local regulations. He believes illegal immigration is a federal matter but said there are things state government can address such as concerns over sanctuary cities and supporting local law enforcement.

Bill Conerly

Florida House District 72 candidate Bill Conerly speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.
Florida House District 72 candidate Bill Conerly speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.

Conerly is a U.S. Navy veteran who last served as an Electrician's Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class. He is an engineer by trade a shareholder with Kimley-Horn and Associates, where he serves as vice president and senior project manager. He served for 12 years on the Manatee County Planning Commission, including time as its chairman. Previously he worked as senior project manager in roles at Waldrop Engineering, Jones Edmunds and Chastain Skillman. He is represented by political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

Conerly said the top three issues state legislators should address are housing affordability, infrastructure needs, and additional insurance reform. He took a pro-life stance, and he supports Florida's six-week abortion ban. He said communities built with a master plan in place, such as Lakewood Ranch and Wellen Park, are examples of smart growth by incorporating road and utility infrastructure along with new homes. He said his opinion on home rule varies and is supportive of some state efforts such as the Live Local initiative. He supports Donald Trump's illegal immigration platform in his run for presidency, and that the state needs to defend against issues that arise from illegal immigration and immigration-friendly policies often seen in other states.

Alyssa Gay

Florida House District 72 candidate Alyssa Gay speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.
Florida House District 72 candidate Alyssa Gay speaks at a forum hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club.

Gay is an entrepreneur who founded her marketing business, AG Creative, in 2017 after years of working as a social media specialist for Authority Insurance. She previously served as a Florida District 73 aide under former state representative Greg Steube, who now serves in Congress.

Gay said the top three issues state legislators should address are costs of living and housing affordability, workforce education, and infrastructure needs including internet access. She took a pro-life stance, and she supports Florida's six-week abortion ban. She said growth is necessary, but that it is important to find a balance between smart growth, the environmental offerings in the area and agricultural needs. She said home rule is the best form of government, and prefers to keep government small and efficient. She believes that illegal immigration is directly affecting housing costs, the costs of living and road quality, and said first responders need to be funded and trained to deal with illegal immigration matters when federal government enforcement does not.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Forum hosts Republican Florida House District 72 candidates