The next state Senator representing the Orlando-based Senate District 13 is likely to be concerned about guns and mental health, supportive of the LGBT community and advocating environmental protection, though Republican Dean Asher and Democrat Linda Stewart part ways on economic matters.

Asher, a Realtor and self-described political moderate, and Stewart, a former state Representative and self-described political progressive, found much to agree on, at least in principal, if not detail, on many issues during a Tiger Bay of Central Florida debate Tuesday. But while Stewart emphasized her priorities as education, environment, equality, and transportation, Asher described his as jobs, jobs, jobs, and advocating for small businesses.

Both seek to replace retiring Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner in a district that, since last year’s redistricting, now has a voter base that leans Democrat, rather than leans Republican. With that in mind, Asher stressed his status as a business owner, while also expressing support for other issues that Stewart has championed, ranging from public education to medical marijuana.

“With Linda and I here, you know, I think there’s a lot of things we can agree on, obviously, the water stuff, the Everglades Restoration Act. Obviously, schools are important. I’ve got two kids… I will do everything in my power I can to make sure our kids and our students and our parents have the best schooling,” Asher said. “And second, it’s all about jobs, it’s all about the businesses here.”

One area that drew quick disagreement was Gov. Rick Scott‘s desire to increase funding for state incentives to attract businesses. Asher said he would gbe in favor of such incentives, though he later backed off a little bit saying the matters need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Stewart was emphatic that she did not see the success rate, she did not see the accountability and she saw much better uses for the money.

“The promises [tied to previous incentive deals] have not been followed thorough, and we’ve given a lot of money to these companies where they fall short on the jobs they promised,” she said.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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