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The Race for 39 Candidate Feature: Marsha Summersill

Can Summersill's moderate platform overcome the odds to beat Bankson?


On the surface, Florida House District 39 looks like a potential battleground between Democrats and Republicans. In 2022, the district was comprised of 41,711 Democrats, 41,680 Republicans, and 34,231 NPAs.

But don't let the registered voter count fool you.

In 2022, Rep. Doug Bankson fought off other Republicans to win the primary, then defeated Democrat Tiffany Hughes in the general with 35,785 votes (55.6%) to Hughes' 28,538 (44.4%).

Marsha Summersill
Marsha Summersill

Bankson is rooted in Apopka and runs tight, pragmatic, and ultimately successful campaigns. He has never lost an election. In 2016, he won a general election and runoff for Seat #3 on the Apopka City Commission. He was re-elected in 2020 before moving on to the Florida Legislature in 2022.

As of June 28th, he has raised $91,296.35 and spent $15,565.64, which makes him well-funded to execute a campaign that runs through November. It will be an uphill battle to unseat Bankson, but one Apopkan has accepted the challenge.

Marsha Summersill is a self-proclaimed moderate who ran unopposed on the Democrat ticket and will take on Bankson head-to-head in the race for District 39.

According to her campaign website, Summersill was born and raised in Apopka and is a dedicated advocate for Florida's families and children.

"I was born at Orlando Health and grew up in Apopka," she said. "I love my city. I have great memories of growing up here and the life-changing events that occurred in Apopka."

According to her campaign website, Summersill had an 18-year career in child welfare, starting as a child abuse investigator for the Department of Children and Families. She honed her skills as a child abuse investigator, a forensic interviewer, and an expert witness, collaboratively working with various law enforcement agencies and hospitals. During that time, she also led the Child Protection Team for Orange and Osceola Counties, served as an assistant manager at the Orange County Children's Advocacy Center, and was an attorney for Children's Legal Services, specializing in complex dependency litigation.

Summersill currently practices family law at Orlando Law Group. 

There are many polarizing issues that Democrats and Republicans disagree on, but Summersill focuses a great deal on the skyrocketing insurance rates in Florida.

"We are in hurricane season, and our homes, for most of us, are our largest investment," she said. "We worked hard to achieve homeownership, and a good portion of us have mortgages/notes. Losing our insurance coverage places us at risk for added costs on our loans and possibly further actions by lenders. This worry, on top of the home maintenance needs and repairs, is unacceptable to place Apopka's homeowners in this position. We need to find solutions. Renters are impacted as well. The renter is faced with increased payments to cover the added costs to the owner. This issue impacts housing in all aspects."

It was an active session in Tallahassee, and Bankson voted on a number of bills that Democrats detested. However, when given the opportunity, Summersill would rather work for a reasonable solution than take on her opponent on those votes.

"As far as bills or actions by others... I can only speak for myself. I am a moderate. I don't work in a self-fulfilling prophecy manner. I listen, I adapt, and I take into account the needs, goals, and values that we all have for ourselves and for our state. We want a safe, clean environment. We want clean water, pristine beaches, safe cities, and efficient power and transportation sources.  We want to preserve our wildlife and maintain a balanced and growing ecosystem. We expect there to be costs and expenses. We want these to be reasonable."

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion has been at the forefront of elections throughout the nation. Bankson has made his pro-life opinion part of his platform. Summersill, however, approaches it not as a controversial issue but one of women's health.

"Women should and shall have the right to decide their own health needs," Summersill said. "These needs and wants are not partisan. These needs and wants are the majority."

Although Summersill has a history in Apopka, she has never been involved in its politics. This is her first time on a ballot. But that won't stop her from working with the Apopka City Council if elected.

"I am committed to collaborating closely with locally elected and appointed officials in all capacities throughout the district to secure resources and support for our municipal governments. The goal is to ensure our communities flourish. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to work alongside the Apopka City Council and Mayor."

According to her website, Summersill is driven by the tragic loss of her brother due to the inadequacies of Florida's healthcare system, fueling her determination to advocate for comprehensive healthcare reforms and address the critical shortage of healthcare professionals.

"I personally went through a very traumatic event with my brother," she said. "He was younger than me. As a result of unfortunate medical neglect, he ended up dying from complications at a young age; he actually turned 45 in the hospital, and going through that process with him for over a year really enlightened me on healthcare issues and how those decisions are made. My goal is to put people in a better position. It's what I do now on my job. I did it in child protection. I do it now with my clients. If I can take these skills and implement them in a venue that's going to impact a majority, then I really need to make efforts to do that. I should try to accomplish these goals. So that's why I'm running for the state position."

It's going to be an uphill climb for Summersill to defeat Bankson. As of June 28th, she raised $20,488.48 but spent $14,654.28, which puts her about $70,000 behind Bankson in available funds. Bankson also has more political experience and is a more well-known brand in Apopka and all of District 39.

Summersill is no doubt aware of her underdog status, but she also sees an opportunity to unite the middle.

"The hope is to encourage individuals that are moderates, like myself," she said. "I think that we have so much we need to get done. And there's so much posturing, even at the local level, that it can be frustrating. So if I can inspire others to say, 'You know, I have views', whether they're slightly left of the center, whether they're slightly right of the center, there's so much overlap, and there's so much that we could get done."

Marsha Summersill, State House District 39, The Race for 39, Who will win the State House District 39 election?


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