Florida House District 55: Political newcomer challenges fourth-generation resident for open seat

Catie Wegman Treasure Coast NewspapersPublished 8:00 AM EDT Sep 18, 2020A 26-year-old lawyer and 73-year-old f

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A 26-year-old lawyer and 73-year-old former teacher are challenging each other for the Florida House District 55 seat in the Nov. 3 general election.

Republican candidate Kaylee Tuck and Democratic nominee Linda Tripp are looking to replace incumbent Cary Pigman, a Republican doctor who cannot run because he has served the maximum four consecutive terms since 2012.

The mostly agricultural area is home to 155,882 residents in Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee and western St. Lucie counties, with about 2,500 in the latter. The majority (46%) are 65 and older. Among those of voting age: 74% are white, 16% are Hispanic and 9% are Black.

Political newcomer Linda Tripp, 73, of LaBelle, wants to shake things up in a community that primarily leans more conservative, she said. Advocating for voices less heard is one change Tripp wants to bring to the forefront should she be elected. 

“I need to be a representative for them — people of color, women, the LGBTQ community…" Tripp said. "I feel a need to respect each of those peoples’ values and help them."

Differing points of views are essential to a functional government, she said. Tripp believes much of her platform, such as being pro-choice, is more inclusive and doesn't infringe on residents' rights to express their own opinions. 

Another hot-button issue Tripp hopes to tackle is the balancing act between agriculture development and the environment, she said. 

"There just has to be a better, solid approach to dealing with this," Tripp said, adding that the system now has hurt local springs and Lake Okeechobee causing blue-green algae, red tide and other chemical issues. 

Expanding early childhood programs and providing access to affordable housing and healthcare are also high on Tripp's to-do list. 

Staying at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic gave Tripp the motivation to educate herself on the issues facing District 55 and run for office. 

"It made me look at this area in a different way, and I thought, 'Why don’t I just step up?'" Tripp said. 

Even though she has lived in LaBelle for 40 years, Tripp said she can offer a fresh insight on the community compared to Tuck, 26, who is a fourth-generation Highlands County resident. 

Tuck did not respond to TCPalm's multiple interview requests. 

According to her website, Tuck's platform includes: keeping taxes low, advancing educational opportunities in rural communities and advocating for free-market principles to "keep the government out of your pocketbook."

Agricultural prospects are also of concern to Tuck, who said current regulations and policies are outdated and favor large scale agriculture operations at the expense of the small farmers. 

Tuck calls public service her "family business."

Her father, Andy, served on the Florida Transportation Commission and is currently vice chair of the Florida State Board of Education. Her mother, Sandee, has been a Highlands County teacher for 26 years. Grandmother Arlene is a Highlands County commissioner and grandfather Doug recently retired from a 37-year career in the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.

Tuck boasts important endorsements from former U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and former Florida Sen. Pat Neal, a Southwest Florida developer of Neal Communities, and has a significant lead in campaign contributions over Tripp.

As of Sept. 16, Tuck reported $180,131 contributions to promote her campaign — compared to Tripp's $12,656. 

Members of the Florida House of Representatives serve two-year terms and no more than four consecutive terms. Legislators assume office two weeks following the election and earn $29,697 annually and an additional $163 based on the number of days in Tallahassee.

Kaylee Tuck

  • Age: 26
  • City of residence: Sebring 
  • Political party: Republican
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in Economics, Florida State University; Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, Stetson University College of Law
  • Occupation: Land-use and real estate attorney

Linda Tripp

  • Age: 73
  • City of residence: LaBelle
  • Political party: Democratic
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in Education, University of Florida; Master's degree in instructional technology, University of South Florida
  • Occupation: Retired 
  • Work history: Elementary and middle school teacher for 30 years; instructional technology specialist 

Catie Wegman is a community reporter who also produces "Ask Catie," an occasional feature to find answers to your burning questions about anything and everything — the more bizarre the better. Support her work with a TCPalm subscription. Contact her at catie.wegman@tcpalm.com or 772-221-4211 and follow her @Catie_Wegman on Twitter and @catiewegman1 on Facebook. 

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