Peltier column: Ann Grady latest in spouses to run

MICHAEL PELTIER

— Legislative qualifying ended Friday at high noon with a few surprises, including the last-minute filing of Naples Republican Ann Grady to run for the seat held for a single term by her husband, Tom.

Grady said she planned to continue the fiscal conservatism advocated by her husband, Tom, who decided not to seek re-election to the seat he held for only one term.

“I will fight the keep taxes low for the families of Collier, ensure our schools are held accountable for the future of our children, and be certain Florida and Collier County foster an environment that allows business to thrive,” Grady said in a prepared statement. “If we remain true to free market principles, our state can lead the nation to prosperity.”

Grady’s election to the house is by no means a certainty. She faces another widely recognized name in the quest for the Republican nod in Naples attorney Kathleen Passidomo.

Though Grady’s candidacy came as a surprise to many, upon further consideration it is but the latest in a recent trend in which spouses following in their partner’s footsteps.

Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, was elected in 2008. She took over the seat held by her husband, Stan Mayfield, who succumbed to an aggressive cancer during his final term in office.

Likewise, Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, succeeded her husband to represent that panhandle district. She took over the seat after winning a special election in 2005 following the death of David Coley, earlier that year.

Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was elected to the seat in 2008. Her husband, John Stargel, represented the same district from 2002 to 2006. Now a circuit court judge, John presided over her swearing in ceremony.

Spouses aren’t the only ones to follow in political footsteps. It can also be a multi-generational affair. The most recent addition to the club is Rep. Matt Gaetz. A Republican from Fort Walton Beach, Gaetz’s father, Don is a leading member in the Florida Senate. The younger Gaetz was elected earlier this year to replace Ray Sansom, the former House speaker who now faces charges of using his office for political gain.

The award for the longest successful political dynasty - in recent history anyway - goes to a Miami Democratic clan whose presence in Tallahassee now spans two generations. The Bullards have been fixtures of Democratic politics in Tallahassee since 1992, when now Sen. Larcenia Bullard began her legislative career in 1992 in the Florida House.

After serving out an eight-year term, she moved to the Senate in 2000 and turned the reins of office over to her husband Ed. He served out his eight years and was succeeded by their son, Dwight, who is running for his second term.

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