It’s crunch time for local and national elections. In Leon County and the Big Bend, the Senate District 3 race has been the most fierce. Vicious attack ads, pricey campaign expenses and plenty of candidate merch to go around.
The seat has been Democrat-held for 20 years and Bill Montford currently serves in the seat, but he is term-limited out after eight years in the state Senate.
Both candidates are women who were raised in North Florida. Both believe they are community advocates, but have polar opposite approaches to serving Leon County and the surrounding 10 counties the seat represents.
As of Oct. 29, 52% of active registered voters have already cast their votes.
The first candidate is Loranne Ausley, the Democrat who gave up her seat in the state House of Representatives in hope of replacing Montford. She has nearly 20 years of experience in local and state government. She served in the Florida House from 2000-2008 and was elected to the lower chamber again in 2016.
Ausley wants all voters to understand that her sense of achievement stems from getting people answers.
“If I can be able to be in a position to use government to help people better their lives — that to me is worth doing and is the reason I want to continue my service,” Ausley said.
Ausley makes it crystal clear to voters that she wants to help families and children, protect Florida water and land, and rebuild communities. All of these priorities visibly tie into her personal life.
She’s a mother to a visually impaired son, she loves outdoor sports like biking and swimming and spent a load of time physically assisting the Panhandle post-Hurricane Michael.
She explained how important it is to invest in one of her biggest passions, children.
“From infancy to five years old, 90 percent of brain development takes place. Yet as a state, we don’t really invest in those early years,” Ausley said.
Ausley endorses Joe Biden and wants to support his plan to invest in resources for children and families ona state level.
“These elections that are down a ballot are sometimes more important than the presidential race. I personally don’t think there’s anything more important than this race,” Ausley said.
She said she is honored to have the endorsement and support of former president Barack Obama.
Ausley’s opponent, Marva Preston, is a Wakulla County native, an ordained minister and former police officer in Miami. She’s a dedicated conservative and is running for the seat on the behalf of the Republican Party.
Preston did not return emails or calls from The Famuan asking for comment.
She has a long history with law enforcement and in today’s fractious times involving race relations, some voters may view that as an issue. She is a Black woman who is believed to support Donald Trump for president.
She’s pro-life and pro-gun, stances that seem to align with Trump supporters. And Preston has received an endorsement from Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, a close ally of Trump’s.
“I am proud to endorse Marva because Florida’s hard-working families deserve an advocate in the Senate who won’t stop at good enough, but will instead fight for more,” Desantis said in a release.
Preston served in the Miami Police Department first as a street cop, then as a homicidedetective. She also investigated sexual battery and child abuse cases.
Preston also worked in internal affairs claiming she dealt with good and bad police officers. She was placed in a task force holding corrupt politicians accountable for their actions.
The Marva Preston campaign is based on constantly touting the “American dream.” Many of her ads promote the idea of a “hand up” instead of a “handout” to the American people.
High quality education, increased security in school and access to healthcare and mental health services are some of Preston’s priorities, listed on her website.
Heavily backed by the GOP, Preston’s ads include attacks against her opponent, accusing Ausley of using COVID-19 funds to finance her campaign and that she neglected her duties during Hurricane Michael.
“Two to three million dollars have been spent to attack my character with lies and distortion. There’s no other way to describe it,”Ausley said.
Ausley defended herself and claimed that she voted no on the Hurricane Michael budget because there was not enough funds for what she believed would help those affected.
Choosing the right candidate for the District 3 seat is crucial in this election because
Tallahassee has one of the poorest ZIP codes that tremendously affects access to education and health insurance for children.
Both candidates have listed children as one of their priorities. The candidate to the Senate seat will be the person responsible for creating, passing and opposing bills that affect tens of thousands of lives, including children.
Voters can visit ausleyforsenate.com or marvapreston.com to find out more information on the candidates or how to volunteer.