The race for the State House District 39 is a long way off. The primary isn't until August 23rd, and the general election on November 8th, but two candidates seem to have the early edge to capture their party's nomination.
Republican Doug Bankson
, who is challenged by Casselberry real estate agent Chuck Burt
in the Republican primary, is leading in fundraising and name recognition. Bankson, a City Commissioner, Vice Mayor, and Pastor in Apopka, has already won two elections in 2016 and 2020 in the city with the largest amount of District 39 voters. He also raised over $64,000 and loaned his campaign $1,000, according to the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) website. Burt raised over $12,000 and has loaned his campaign $40,000.
Democrat Tiffany Hughes,
a Longwood resident and former president of the Orange County NAACP, has raised over $27,000 and loaned her campaign $10,000 according to the FDOE website. Her opponent, Luther Dowe of Longwood
, has raised $1,000 and loaned his campaign $10,000.
A post-primary matchup between Bankson and Hughes, at this moment in the election cycle, is the likely outcome. And while house races are usually determined on local issues, this campaign season could hinge on a national issue that has taken center stage in recent days - Roe v. Wade.
Abortion, while possibly the hottest of hot buttons in politics, is not usually an issue that decides local elections. But after Politico broke a leaked Supreme Court document written by Justice Samuel Alito that was later confirmed as a draft of the majority opinion on the court that would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade. It puts abortion at the top of the list of issues in the Bankson v. Hughes election, and probably every partisan campaign in the US from state legislatures, and gubernatorial races, to US House and Senate elections.
And in the District 39 race, Bankson and Hughes's opinions are diametrically opposed on Roe v. Wade.
"I'm unashamedly pro-life, and we are seeing a trend change in society," Bankson told The Apopka Voice in an April interview. "We're seeing more where science proves what to me, we know in our hearts. I understand that there are those who have fears and concerns on the other side of that issue. But to me, it goes to the right of the individual. And we are given we're endowed by our creator with unalienable rights.
All men are created equal. And so it goes to the individual... does the individual have rights? Science now proves it. At the time I remember in 1973 when the Roe v. Wade was coming up, and I was 10... and I remember talking to my mother. Why is it wrong? I asked her. And I remember her saying because that's a baby.
Bankson believes that in 1973, Roe v. Wade was not about abortion as much as the right to privacy.
"Roe v. Wade didn't deal with the issue of personhood. They dealt with the rights of privacy. But they said at the time if the personhood of the individual is able to be established, perhaps in the future, we will have enough scientific ability to prove certain things. And when that happens, this must be overturned. Because the individual has rights. DNA is established from the moment of conception. Fingerprints are forming by the second month. How do we ID someone? With a fingerprint. You know, how do we ID in the court cases? They're decided based on DNA. Science has now gone beyond where they were then... which backs up what I believe the conscience knows."
He also thinks that this generation is already trending in the pro-life direction.
"We also see a trend in our young people," he said. "Though there are other social issues, we've gone a different direction. But when it comes to the issue of abortion, even the young people know they can see science can get in there. The camera shows we know the stages of development. They're saying, 'wait a minute, that is a baby'. And we can't deny that. Of course, as a Christian, I believe that God knew us in our mother's womb. But there are those that don't have that same viewpoint. This is who I am. And this is what I will fight for. I believe its time has come. Just like slavery. In 1857, the Supreme Court decided that a man with dark skin was property. We look at that now, and we know it was evil."
After Politico broke the story, Hughes made this comment on her campaign's Facebook page on May 3rd:
"If reports are correct and the Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, we should be appalled but not shocked. This forthcoming decision and the more than 26 state laws across the country that seek to completely end abortion access are part of a clear and consistent Republican effort to take away our fundamental right to make our own health care decisions. It puts women — especially women of color — in danger and is an attack not only on women's rights but the freedoms of all Americans.
We must push back against these efforts to put this incredibly personal decision in the hands of the government, instead of with us and our doctors, where it belongs. It is more important than ever that we elect pro-choice candidates at the state level. This is especially true in Florida where we know the consequences of this decision will be felt severely and swiftly. If we’re going to protect our rights, we must make our voices heard this November and vote to end the Republicans’ absolute control of our state."
On May 4th, Hughes joined hundreds of pro-choice protesters at the Orlando City Hall. She later made this statement on her campaign's Facebook page:
“This fight has and will come down to the people we elect to represent us in Tallahassee. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE A VOICE — WE HAVE A SAY IN OUR FUTURE.
So let’s rally, knock on doors, call our legislators and elect pro-choice women up and down the ballot and especially in the state legislature!”
When our community is under attack — we fight back.
Yesterday, hundreds of members of our Central Florida community gathered at Orlando City Hall to make our voices heard and save Roe. With our rights being threatened from all sides, now is the time to speak up, speak out, and get involved in your community. That’s how we fight back. That’s how we win in November."
Editor's Note: Tiffany Hughes was misidentified as Tiffany Russell in the original publication of the article. A correction has been made.