Opioid Crisis Hits Home for Howard



The opioid crisis in Bradenton drew the attention of officials statewide. For state House candidate Melissa Howard, the problem hit close to home. A foster child living in her house two years ago fought through drug problems himself. “He’s better now,” Howard says, “but this wreaks havoc on families. I know firsthand.”

Howard this week formally filed as a Republican candidate for state House in District 73, which covers parts of east Manatee and Sarasota counties. If not for the drug issue in her home, Howard says she likely would have run two years ago, but was happy to see Joe Gruters run and win instead. With Gruters now eyeing a state Senate seat, Howard wants a place in the state House, where she would handle issues like opioids, following in the steps of area lawmakers like outgoing state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and former state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

Howard, local chapter chair for the Florida Federation of Republican Women, feels the perspective of a female conservative will serve the region well in Tallahassee. “It’s not to say men and women don’t care the same, but, as in any business, every study shows you should have a diverse group of people in leadership, whether it's on a board or a management team, to be the most effective,” she says. Howard jumped into this race, she says, after Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh decided not to run for the seat.

The Bradenton area Republican says she would go to Tallahassee a supporter of funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, an issue that created a divide last year between Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott. Howard’s stance puts her on Scott’s side of the issue in supporting jobs and tourism-promoting agencies. “Whether we like it or not, we get a lot of revenue from that work,” she says of funding business incentives and visitor marketing. That stance puts her on the same footing as Gruters, who stood with the governor instead of House leadership.

But Howard would have voted differently on recent gun legislation passed by the state House but opposed by the NRA. She doesn’t like a ban on bump stocks, which can increase the firing rate of legally purchased firearms, she says. But more importantly, she doesn’t care for a blanket ban on the purchase of guns by citizens age 18 to 21. She would have supported restrictions, she says, but not a total prohibition. “If you have a concealed carry permit and have training, you should make an exception to the law,” she says. Similarly, she’s says anyone 18 to 21 who serves in the military should be permitted to purchase weapons.

Howard right now faces Sarasota attorney Tommy Gregory in the Republican primary, and Democrat Liv Coleman, a Tampa University professor, is also running. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 28, the general election for Nov. 6.

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