Updated 10/12/20 9:42 a.m.
Republican Lauren Melo and Democrat Laura Novosad are running for the Florida Legislature’s House District 80 seat. The seat is currently held by Byron Donalds, who is running for Congress.
A recent article by Naples Daily News reporter Liz Freeman provides valuable information about the candidates and the race.
- Democrat Laura Novosad challenges Republican Lauren Melo for vacated Florida District 80 seat. Naples Daily News, 10/8/20
In this post, I will review what I learned from researching the candidates and look at the money that is financing the campaigns.
Please see How I Research Candidates and Six Things to Consider When Evaluating Candidates for my approach to writing these posts. I also asked the candidates to complete a questionnaire and included excerpts edited for brevity and clarity as well as links to the complete documents below.
Lauren Melo (Republican)
Lauren Melo was born and raised in Southwest Florida and attended Barron Collier High School in Naples. She started a trucking company in 1991 and grew it from a single truck into a large fleet, at one point managing more than one hundred trucks. Today, she owns Florida’s Realty Specialists, a real estate brokerage firm, and is President of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.
Her community involvement has included service on the Board of Directors of HELP (Housing, Education, Lending Programs), and as a guardian ad litem volunteer. She has three children.
According to her website, she “is a conservative Republican who supports our President and will fight to protect our second amendment rights, honor our veterans, cut bureaucratic red tape, and grow the economy.” It does not elaborate further on issues or policies.
Melo did not return my questionnaire.
A search of Melo’s Twitter feed and online revealed endorsements from Naples Better Government, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Medical Association PAC; Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity Action.
- NABOR installs 2020 board of directors and new president Lauren Melo. Southwest Florida Business Today, 12/23/19
- Byron Donalds backs Lauren Melo as successor in HD 80. Florida Politics, 2/20/20
- Lauren Melo charges onto airwaves. Florida Politics, 7/24/20
In Her Own Words
- laurenmelo.com; Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn
- Interview – Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers – 7/2/20
- Interview – Collier County Republican Executive Committee – 7/7/20
- Candidate television ad
Laura Novosad (Democrat)
Laura Novosad has lived in District 80 for 22 years. She has a B.A. in Special Education from FGCU and taught special education at Sable Palm Elementary and elsewhere. She also taught religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples. In 2010, she became a Realtor and now works with Premier Plus Realty Company in Fort Myers.
Her volunteer activities have included serving on the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples, managing over 300 volunteers at the Rookery Bay National Estuary, and working with the Girl Scouts and the PTA. She was also a founding member and President of the Democratic Women’s Club of Hendry County. Her uncle Richard Pettigrew of Miami-Dade County served in the Florida House (1963 – 1972) including as Speaker the final two years, and as a State Senator thereafter.
She and her husband of 38 years have two children and live in LaBelle.
Her website gives her views on Water Quality, Housing Security, Medical Security, Agriculture, Climate Stabilization, Criminal Justice Reform, Equality, Education, and Sensible Gun Reform.
What diversity of perspective, attributes, knowledge or skills would you bring to the office that differentiates you or that the other candidate doesn’t have?
I will work across party lines to accomplish what might be thought difficult. I will focus on policy that will make life better for Florida and work to bring policy based on science and research.
What three things do you want to accomplish if elected?
1. Expand Medicaid, giving 1.5 million Floridians health care benefits.
2. Pass the Equal Rights Amendment, protect woman’s reproductive rights, and ensure equal pay for equal work, including family leave for both parents.
3. Protect and increase private home ownership to provide greater stability in all communities.
A current public policy position she disagrees with and would like to change if elected is:
Florida’s rejection of Medicaid expansion.
The most important thing voters should know about her before making their decision in this race is that:
I will reach across party lines to stop the “party over policy” gridlock and find common ground to make the changes that will propel Florida into the future.
Novosad has been endorsed by VoteWater.org; Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida; Dr. Jennifer Boddicker, former Democratic Candidate for Florida HD 80; Democratic Women’s Club of Florida; and Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood, and was recognized as a 2020 Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate.
- More Democrats file for long-shot legislative races in 2020. Florida Politics, 5/21/20
In Her Own Words
- novosadforflorida.com; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; LinkedIn; YouTube
- Candidate Spotlight (video interview), Collier County Democratic Party, 7/7/20
- Candidate television ad, 9/21/20
- 2020 Candidate Questionnaire, Coalition for Quality Public Education. 10/20
According to the most recent campaign finance filings available today on the Florida Division of Election website:
One month before her August primary election, Melo had received contributions totaling almost $93,000, including 71 contributions of the maximum allowable $1,000. Between that date and October 2, she received another $62,700, including 50 contributions of the maximum $1,000.
About 40 percent of the total monetary contributions received through October 2 were from political or trade associations or government relations firms, and almost 30 percent were from entities with addresses in the state capital.
Entities that gave multiple contributions of $1,000 include Earth Tech Enterprises Inc. (contracting company); Florida Acre, Florida Beer Wholesalers, Florida Manufactured Housing Association, Florida Natural Gas PAC, Friends of Ray Rodrigues, and Realtors Political (political committees); Larry J. Overton & Associates, Inc. (governmental consulting), and Aggrisource LLC (agriculture).
Novosad received 132 individual contributions of which one was for $1,000 and the rest averaged about $100. She loaned her campaign $1,000.
Updated 10/12/20 to add endorsement by Naples Better Government.