Key West Democrat Ian Whitney says state government is "broken," and that fact has motivated him to enter the race for the Florida House of Representatives.
"Instead of policy being set by people who have the best interests of our communities in mind, we have a lot of legislation being written by lobbyists and special interest groups with their own agendas," Whitney wrote in a prepared statement. "There's too much corporate and lobbyist money in campaigns. ... I'm running because I believe that the future of our district and state depends upon changing our priorities."
Whitney has filed to run for the seat held by State Rep. Ron Saunders, who is running for the state Senate.
Whitney, 32, has been a long-time community activist, but has never held elected office. However, he does not see his lack of experience as a hindrance.
"There is definitely an upside to it," Whitney told The Citizen on Wednesday. "I think there are a lot of people who are not happy with their elected officials."
Whitney has been a committeeman for the Florida Democratic party since December 2009, and serves as chairman of Florida's 18th District Democratic Executive Committee. He also serves on the state Democratic Party's campaign committee and on the Legislative Committee of the Democratic Progressive Caucus.
Whitney says that in addition to taking back Tallahassee from special interests, he plans to make education, state economic development and maintaining water quality his priority issues, noting that economic development is tied directly to education.
"There are corporations in our state that are creating jobs in other states because they can't find skilled labor here," he said. "They are bringing jobs, but they are unskilled, low-paying jobs."
School districts are laying off teachers throughout Florida and facing school funding shortfalls as the result of "bad choices, not inevitability," Whitney said.
"Florida ranks 41 out of 50 states in terms of education spending per student, but Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have no problem passing $1 billion in tax credits at a time when we really should be thinking about the future and investing in our kids," he said.
Whitney is president of the Key West Innkeepers Association and serves on the Key West Chamber of Commerce's Tourism Committee. He has served on the Visit Florida Public Relations Committee, Visit Florida Communications Committee, Visit Florida Minority Grants Review Committee and two terms as vice president of the Key West Business Guild.
He was born and raised in Michigan and graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy. He has lived in the Keys for the past 10 years.
Whitney is the only Democrat to file for the seat so far. Former Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson and Saunders' aide, Holly Raschein, have also filed to run for the state representative seat. Both are Republicans.