ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- The race for Florida State House District 21 is heating up, as incumbent Representative Chuck Clemons (R) faces off against challenger Jason Haeseler (D).
District 21 (map at bottom of article) consists of parts of Gainesville west of 13th St., as well as the City of Newberry, and Gilchrist and Dixie Counties.
Clemons is finishing his first term as a representative. Outside of his seat in Tallahassee, he works at the Office of Advancement at Santa Fe College.
"For the last dozen years, I've been honored to raise money for underserved and non-traditional students at Santa Fe College," Clemons said. "It's really a labor of love."
His challenger, Jason Haeseler, is the Assistant Director of Utilities for Water Resources at the University of Florida. As an engineer, Haeseler works with wastewater and stormwater.
Haeseler's platform is centered on defending home rule for cities and counties to have control over regulating environmental protections, expanding affordable health care, and supporting public education.
"Those are complex problems that I think my engineering mindset is well-suited to," Haeseler said. "Solving those problems or working toward solutions to those problems."
Clemons said that if he's re-elected, the pillars of his next term would be focused on supporting agricultural development, funding education and protecting the environment.
"I'm happy with my successes. It's one thing to make bold statements as a candidate, and it's another thing to deliver on those promises," Clemons said.
Clemons touted his support for bringing $11 million of new construction funding in District 21, part of which went toward the construction of the new Dixie County High School.
Haeseler said he's running to expand affordable healthcare because his oldest daughter suffered from a congenital heart defect. She's out of the hospital now, but Haeseler without insurance his family would have had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The same 8-year-old that has the same health problems, if his or her parents don't have the same economic status as we do, that kid won't have that opportunity," Haeseler said.
Clemons takes a different stance on the expansion of healthcare.
"Who's gonna pay the bill for that? There are 19 states that are just like Florida," Clemons said. "We cannot afford to expand the Medicaid throughout Florida because it would cost billions of dollars. Since we have a balanced budget in Florida, where will those billions come from?"
Another issue dividing the candidates is campaign financing. Haeseler has gone after Clemons for receiving funding from large corporations like phosphate mining companies.
"Some of those donors, who I've been criticized for, they have made donations to the Democratic Party of Florida. So it's a little unfair," Clemons said.
Haeseler said the majority of his donations have been individuals.
In terms of the environment, Haeseler said his experience as an engineer dealing with water issues puts him in a good position to advocate for Florida's springs and home rule over environmental regulation.
Clemons talked on his experience co-sponsoring a bill to ban fracking in Florida.
Both candidates say their only disagreements are over policy. Each said their campaigns will keep pushing through Election Day.