GOP District 19 state House candidates

In mid-July, the Palatka Daily News asked candidates in August elections to tell our readers more about themselves. Candidates received extensive questionnaires and were given more than two weeks to complete the questionnaires. Below are the answers from the Republican candidates state House District 19 seat, which encompasses all of Putnam County and surrounding counties. The two face off in the August primary. Early voting starts Aug. 17. The primary is Aug. 30. The winner faces Democrat Joe Snodgrass in the general election.



Age: 52

Years living in area: 26 years

Family: Daughter 17, Lyndsay

Education: BS/BA Business Administration Columbia College

Current occupation: Realtor, Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty

Previous employment: Chairman, Republican Party of Florida

Military history: 25 years as a Military Spouse, 4 duty stations and PCS moves

Volunteer history: Chairman, Government Affairs Clay County Chamber of Commerce

Chairman, Small Business Development Center Board – Governor Appointment

Chairman, Clay County Republican Party

Federated Republican Women of Florida, At Large member

Planning and Zoning Commissioner

Haven Hospice Board Member

Orange Park United Methodist Church Board

Lighthouse Learning Board Member

Cattleman Member


Public elected offices: Chairman, Republican Party of Florida

Chairman, Clay County Republican Party

Any unsuccessful political campaigns: Clay County School Board

Other political and government experience: Chairman, Government Affairs for Clay County Chamber of Commerce

Planning Commissioner, Clay County

Endorsements received: National Rifle Association (NRA) A Rating

Unified Sportsman Gun: Pro-Gun Rating

Northeast Florida Board of Realtors (NEFAR)

Florida Association of Realtors (FAR)

Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA)

Clay County Fire/Rescue Local Professionals 3362

Florida Right to Life PAC: Support – A Rating

1. Why should people vote for you? I have a proven track record working for my community and bringing business to northeast Florida. Clay County has experienced tremendous job growth over the past 10 years. Focusing on infrastructure (such as the outer beltway), and advocating for growth has helped northeast Florida and Clay County become thriving communities.

I can advocate for businesses, and help them navigate the issues they face from burdensome regulations, by using my background, knowledge and experience at the state level.

I will use my connections and relationships with local and state business leaders to bring economic development to District 19. Some of the counties within District 19, (Putnam, Bradford and Union), have not had strong leadership in Tallahassee. They deserve and need a strong representative who will focus on infrastructure and economic development.

I am a life member of the National Rifle Association and have received an A grade. I’m also a conceal carry permit holder and will fight tirelessly to advocate for our 2nd Amendment rights. Never before has our country faced this unrelenting threat of terrorism. I am against sanctuary cities and will demand our laws are enforced to keep the citizens of Florida safe.

I will advocate for law enforcement, emergency/fire rescue and correctional employees so that they receive the funding and equipment they need to perform their job to protect the citizens of Florida.

2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them? The corporate lease tax needs to be abolished to create a more business friendly climate. This will attract economic growth to this district.

This district needs viable infrastructure. Its roads, water and sewer systems need upgrades and improvements. The cities and counties of the district are fully aware of their infrastructure demands. They need a representative to help them tap into state resources, including the state rural grants, to help them find the funds to make these improvements.

I will support legislation that preserves, protects and restores our natural water bodies, such as the St. Johns River and Rodman Dam, along with continuing to search for highest and best use of our water. We must be a part of the Northeast Florida delegation to look at policies that preserve our existing water resources and protect the Florida aquafer. District 19 is a district of cities, small towns and a large rural farming community. Water is essential for each of these different areas.

3. What other issues do you see as important? Workers compensation rates will be going up by 20% next year and will affect businesses with more than five employees. My background in Human Resources and Workers Compensation will be an advantage in crafting business friendly legislation to protect business against costly fraudulent claims.

Educational funding is a recurrent issue. I will work to return more money to the counties and allow local control to spend it as they see fit with less strings attached from the state.

I will work with the local communities and state agencies to craft programs that provide community outreach for those in need of medical and dental services within District 19.

The counties need relief from unfunded mandates. I will approach all programs with common sense and core conservative principles.

4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public? I would create a working relationship with local governments; define the goals and objectives to be achieved that will best serve District 19. I welcome and encourage suggestions, ideas and feedback from those in the District. I will encourage and engage the constituents to help build a positive future for the community.

I will hold town hall meetings, and maintain regular office hours as well as a newsletter, (electronic and paper), to communicate with constituents on a regular basis.

5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details. No.

6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details. No.

7. Are there any personal details about yourself voters would be interested in knowing? My background in community infrastructure development as well as my business background and business degree serves as a foundation for my passion for economic development and job creation. I am convinced that the hope for Florida’s future falls heavily on the opportunity for each Floridian to find a quality job. As a business owner, I am a tireless advocate for helping communities attract new businesses, encourage entrepreneurs, support employers that provide the foundational jobs for the community and provide outstanding training and education so potential businesses have a skilled workforce available and the community has flourishing employment options.

I’m passionate about protecting our 2nd Amendment and support organizations and legislation to assure our rights guaranteed by our Constitution.



Age: 58

Years living in area: Life long resident of Palatka

Family: Wife Margie, Step-son Chance Clay, his wife Sara and 6 month old grand-daughter Lillian

Education: Bachelors Degree in Business, JU. MBA, NovaSoutheastern University

Current occupation: Senior Project Development Representative, Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Previous employment: Seminole Electric, 35 years.

Military history: None

Volunteer history:

*Past Chair of the Putnam Chamber of Commerce and 20 plus year Board Member.

*Past President of Sunrise Rotary of Palatka.

*Co-Chair with wife of the ARC of Putnam, 2014 and 2015, fundraising board member.

*Current Community Advisory Board Member of Haven Hospice Robert’s Care Center and original member of the Haven Capital fundraising Committee.

*Member of SJRSC Executive Athletic Board.

*Past Board Member of Treasurer of the United Way of Putnam.

*Past Board Member of LifeSouth Blood Bank.

*Past fundraising chair for the Timaquan Boy Scouts District.

*Numerous other volunteer boards and Charities throughout Putnam County.

*Served on the County Solid waste Advisory Board and Task Force.

Public elected offices: None

Any unsuccessful political campaigns: None

Other political and government experience: Volunteer Capacities only, I support candidates that share common principles of high moral / ethical principles.

Endorsements received: Former State Representative Joe Pickens

Former State Representative Kelley Smith

Former Sheriff Taylor Douglas

Dr. Anand Kuruvilla, First Radiological Oncology Group

State of Florida Chamber of Commerce

Received an “A” Rating from the NRA and “Pro-Gun” from Unified Sportsman

Received an “A” from the Florida Right to Life

Supported by but not formally endorsed by:

*The Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Cattlemen and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Growers.

*Florida Banking Association

1. Why should people vote for you? I’m the ONLY conservative outsider in the race. I've NEVER run for office before. My spouse is NOT a legislator. I’m NOT in any way part of the current system we have today which is badly in need of change. I believe our district needs someone with leadership and business experience that will work hard to improve the economic conditions in our district. Someone who shares our conservative, constitutional and Judeo-Christian values.

2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them? 

Jobs - Good paying jobs is one the biggest ways for us to no longer be one of Florida's poorest counties. We need to protect the jobs and industries we have today and work to attract employers to our area. Our state workers and Correctional Officers have had only one small raise in the past ten years. Educating and training our youth for adult life and promoting a culture of strong families will also greatly help our economy.

Illegal Immigration - We need to ban sanctuary cities in Florida immediately and penalize cities and elected officials who won’t enforce our laws. We need a President who is serious about enforcing the law and we need all levels of government to work together to combat illegal immigration.

Defending the 2nd Amendment - We live in dangerous times and people need to be able to defend themselves. There is no doubt liberals like our President and Hillary Clinton would take away our guns if they could. We must defend the Second Amendment fully. 

3. What other issues do you see as important? Judicial Reform - We need term limits for the Florida Supreme Court. Whether it is protecting the unborn, same sex marriage or marginalizing Christianity, the Florida Supreme Court is totally out of control in pushing its liberal agenda by striking down numerous laws passed by the people through the Legislature and the ballot box.

The Rodman Reservoir - We need to protect the Rodman Reservoir. It is a treasure we enjoy locally and it is one of our economic engines. The environmental activists nor the power brokers in downtown Jacksonville will tear down the Rodman on my watch. 

4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public? I think we need more honesty and transparency in the law making process. If the process is simpler for the average citizen to understand there will be more openness and accountability. Right now the current system has too many ways for the politicians to hide behind or blame others and get nothing done.

5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details. No

6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details. No

7. Are there any personal details about yourself voters would be interested in knowing? Voters should know that I was raised by conservative parents that moved to Putnam County over 70 years ago. My father was a 40 year veteran of the military, landed D-day plus 3, fought in WWII and returned home where he and my mother raised 4 children with strong Ethical Christian conservative values. I am a Christian and believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ. I grew up here in Palatka. I care deeply about this county and want to see it and my neighbors prosper. I have been married to Margie for the past 19 years and we are excited about our first granddaughter Lillian. Margie and I are members of First Baptist in Palatka.



Age: 55

Years living in area: 22 years

Family: Husband- Charles Van Zant, 8 children, 11 grandchildren

Education: Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering, Florida International University. Also have Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering, University of Miami and Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Florida State University.

Current occupation: Professional Engineer

Previous employment: Azure Engineering, Inc., my own Engineering Firm

CH2M Hill Engineers, Civil and Environmental Engineering Firm

Military history: We have two sons plus a grandson who have served in the Army, deployed to combat a total of 8 times.

Volunteer history: Current: Long term volunteer Technical Advisory Board Member for Save our Lakes, a regional water resource, community advocacy group of over 600 members.

Founder and continuing facilitator for several fulltime volunteer prison programs serving prisons throughout the region with fulltime volunteer chaplains and an adult literacy facilitator.

Pastor’s wife for Gospel Lighthouse church, a mission church serving the homeless, drug addicts and men and women who have served time in prison.

Saint Johns River Water Management District NFSEG Steering Committee

Previous: City of West Palm Beach Blighted Neighborhood Advocacy Leader.

Boys Club Basketball Coach.

After school literacy program for elementary and middle school children.

Established Prison Beekeeping Vocational Program

Saint Johns River Water Management District MFL Advisory Committee

Public elected offices: no publicly elected offices

Any unsuccessful political campaigns: no previous political campaigns

Other political and government experience: As a Consulting Engineer to City and County governments my background is in working with local and regional governments and helping them meet the needs of their constituents. This includes consulting with them on how they want to grow and what they will need to have in place to provide for that growth. In addition, I have spent the last 8 years interacting with our state government leaders and learning how to effectively pass legislation and address appropriation needs. I will be able to hit the ground running in advocating for Putnam County with our state government.

Endorsements received: FOP, Fraternal Order of Police

Associated Builders and Contractors

First Coast Manufacturers Association

Florida Health Care Association


Congressman Daniel Webster

Welaka Mayor Gordon Sands

Interlachen Mayor Ken Larsen

1. Why should people vote for you? I have the experience, training and passion to best help Putnam County. I have strong relationships with major business leaders, manufacturers and prominent governmental leaders throughout the state and I’m committed to finding the best opportunities for the future of Putnam County. I also uniquely have the education and technical background to be a leading voice for the water needs of our residents, our farmers, the Saint Johns River and for Saving Rodman Reservoir. Finally, I have a proven history throughout Putnam County of listening to the residents and working hard to fully understand their needs and challenges so that resources can be found to address them.

2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them?

1) Meeting the Economic Development needs of Putnam County: Jobs, Transportation, Infrastructure. This can be done by providing connections between those in Putnam County who are ready to address the needs in the area and resources from outside the County.

2) Improving Education for Putnam County. I will have focused input on our state educational directives and support NEFEC (the consortium that supports our Putnam County School District).

3) Providing for the Water Resource needs of Putnam County and our State. Considering that our state is projected to be 1.3 billion gallons per day short of water by 2030, we have got to address this problem before our farmers and industries are crippled and the costs for water become overwhelming. This can be addressed with balanced scientific answers to expand our water supply.

3. What other issues do you see as important? Protecting our Second Amendment Rights

Stopping Illegal Immigration

Protecting the lives of Unborn Babies

4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public? First, I will be open and accessible, spending time throughout the county, listening and responding to the residents. Also, I will hold Town Hall meetings so the residents can have a place to bring their questions and concerns and hear about decisions being made in state government.

5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details. No

6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details. No

7. Are there any personal details about yourself voters would be interested in knowing? As well as my Engineering background and Small Business ownership, I have spent a great deal of time with Prison volunteer programs, including an award winning Prison Literacy program where we train inmates how to teach other inmates how to read. I am fervent about supporting our Veterans, our Police Officers and our Corrections Officers, the men and women who have laid their lives on the line for each one of us. The FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) recognized my support for our Officers and endorsed my campaign.