HOUSE DISTRICT 29
Mike Clelland is a former firefighter, who went to law school at night at Florida A&M's law school in Orlando and became an attorney, specializing in helping firefighters in pension and contract negotiations. His brother Steve is also involved in the firefighters' union, as president of the Orlando Professional Firefighters Association. Mike Clelland spent 25 years on the fire department in Longwood, retiring as battallion chief.
On the campaign trail, Clelland has pushed for more attention to the needs of public education and railed against the Republican Legislature for cutting spending on schools and requiring public employees to pay into their retirement funds, effectively giving them a cut in take-home pay.
Clelland, as would be expected, has been endorsed by nearly every public employees' union, inccluding the Fraternal Order of Police and the Florida Education Association in addition to the firefighters unions.
Clelland is an articulate and hard-working candidate who has a link to a key constituency in the Democratic Party's base - unionized workers. But by virtue of where he lives he's taking on one of the most powerful sitting legislators, Republican Chris Dorworth, who is in line to be speaker in 2014.
And the district where he's running, House District 29, is pretty solidly Republican: Gov. Rick Scott would have won it by about 10 points had it been in existence in 2010 and GOP presidential candidate John McCain won the area's precincts by about 6 percentage points in 2008. It has about 41,000 Republicans, 33,000 Democrats and 24,000 independents. The district is basically the northwestern quadrant of Seminole County, taking in much of the city of Sanford, all of Lake Mary, where Dorworth lives, Longwood, Wekiva Springs and Heathrow.
In early October, Dorworth and Clelland were on the same set at WESH.