Democrat Wheeler files for House District 21
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.a
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.
Marihelen Wheeler, a veteran local school teacher who has previously run for the Legislature and Congress, is running as a Democrat for Florida House District 21.
Wheeler is the first Democrat to enter a race that includes three Republicans: Santa Fe College administrator and former County Commissioner Chuck Clemons, Lewis Oil CEO Wenda Lewis and Tim Rogers, a pharmacist with the University of Florida Veterinary Hospitals and the current president of the Florida Pharmacy Association’s board.
Wheeler previously ran for Florida House District 20 in a 2012 Democratic primary won by Clovis Watson Jr. In 2014, she challenged Republican Congressman Ted Yoho in a race where Yoho handily won re-election but Wheeler carried Alachua County by a thin margin.
Wheeler’s Gainesville home and her listed address on campaign paperwork is in District 20. Florida House members must live in the district they represent at the time of their election, according to Florida Division of Elections information.
Wheeler said she has plans to change her residency to a property near her home that is in District 21.
Wheeler, 64, has been a school teacher for more than three decades, first in Levy County and then Alachua County. She has been at Westwood Middle School 21 years, where she taught special needs students and now teaches art.
With her professional background in teaching, Wheeler said a campaign focus is increasing funding for the state’s public school system.
She’s also a member of several environmental groups, including Our Santa Fe River Inc., the Sierra Club, Santa Fe Lake Dwellers and the Georgia-based WWALS Watershed Coalition.
As a member of those groups, she’s fought against fracking and against the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline that will run under rivers, through springs protection zones and conservation properties. She’s also part of the public opposition to a phosphate mine proposed in Union and Bradford counties.
“What we’re trying to do is protect our water resources here for future generations,” she said. “Tallahassee is more concerned at this point about getting corporations and businesses to come here at the expense of our agriculture and our aquaculture.”
On another hot button environmental issue, Wheeler said she feels state officials also need to acknowledge the science behind climate change and address rising sea levels.
District 21 includes western Alachua County and Gilchrist and Dixie counties.
Gainesville Republican Keith Perry has represented the district since 2010, but passed on running for a fourth and final term to launch a Florida Senate campaign