Gregory, Coleman Battle on Policy in 73



After a scandal drew the national spotlight on Florida House District 73 during primary season, many wondered if the actual election might be a non-event. But with Republican Tommy Gregory and Democrat Liv Coleman each spending and scrounging for votes, the fight remains one of the most interesting in the region heading into November 6.

Gregory, a Sarasota attorney and former JAG officer, continues to stand on social conservative positions. He expects little appetite in the Florida House this year for funding business incentives, and that includes his own interest in the issue. During the primary season, he set himself apart early as the candidate fighting against immigration and gun control, while Republican opponent Melissa Howard courted the pro-business wing of the party. 

Not that it mattered. A scandal about Howard’s college credentials led to her exit before final votes were cast. Gregory got more votes in the primary—19,144 to Howard’s 7,725—but after his opponent withdrew he’d have won the nomination even if he lost the vote itself.

Now he’s seeking out the middle, but has found campaigning doesn’t feel that different. “Voters are interested in the same issues they always have been: transportation, infrastructure, the environment and the economy,” Gregory says. 

Coleman, a University of Tampa political science professor, says she’s been working to reach as many voters as she can in the short time between now and Election Day. “We're running a grassroots campaign trying to meet as many voters as possible,” she says.

Coleman has turned some heads working major canvassing events in the district, as well as with quixotic moves like poetry readings on social media. She’s run on a progressive platform but with certain differences, like a dislike of Common Core and high-stakes testing. And as environmental issues took center stage amid algal blooms this fall, the race suddenly felt like it was in play.

“In spite of the district being outrageously gerrymandered, it looks like a very competitive race. If the blue wave is strong, we will surf to victory,” she says.

That may still prove challenging here. Outgoing state Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, won this district in 2016 with 65 percent of the vote over Democrat James Golden. And Gregory has raised $156,685 in contributions to Coleman’s $52,745. But she’s had money come in late and chipped in $5,000 of her own, so both campaigns remain active in the final stretch.

Gregory says he’s been happy to engage in real policy debate. “It gives voters a real appreciation for differences between my opponent and I on public policy,” he says. “Frankly, I find all the voters are more complex than people believe them to be.” He remains confident he will win the confidence of most who cast ballots.

Coleman and Gregory face off in the Nov. 6 election. All voters in District 73 may vote.

Pictured: Tommy Gregory, Liv Coleman

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