Florida Senate District 12 Race

(WCJB) - Florida's District 12 includes parts of Sumter, Lake, and Southern Marion counties.

The area was redistricted before the 2016 election, when Republican Dennis Baxley was chosen as the first senator to represent the new district.

Baxley ran unopposed in 2016, but this year, he's up against Democrat Gary McKechnie.

Baxley says he's on track to accomplishing his main goals, which include improving access to education and transportation in North Central Florida, as well as conserving our natural resources.

"We actually in the last 15 years probably reduced the average consumption of water by almost half by just improvements in technology, education about better conservation awareness, and how we can better take care of those resources that take care of us," said Baxley.

McKechnie says his main concerns are improving access to health care, providing fair wages and increasing education funding.

He says he'd also like to add more transparency to the legislative process.

"There are a lot of bills written by special interest groups, lobbyists, lawyers, and some donor who passed this guy a couple of bucks," said McKechnie. "I want to make sure that you trace the origin of this bill. Where did it come from? Who is it going to serve? Is it going to serve the people?"

One major issue the candidates disagree on is gun control.

Baxley says he believes the focus should be on enforcing the current laws in place, rather than creating new gun control policies.

"They actually make the world safer by stopping a lot of violent incidents from accelerating because they equalize the force, the people who perpetrated violence go away, and no one gets hurt," said Baxley.

McKechnie, however, believes there is a need for stricter gun laws.

He says he would support implementing a system where gun owners must learn how to handle lower grade guns before they can buy heavier firearms.

"Okay, you got the 22, and then maybe the next thing is like a handgun, and you've proven you know how to use a handgun, and then maybe you can go up to the next grade of weapons. And maybe those assault weapons are just restricted for people who've been in the military who've used them before or police officers," said McKechnie.

Both candidates are urging people in rural communities, where voter turnout can be low, to make sure they cast their ballots.