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‘Pragmatic’ civil engineer Randy Cooper vies for HD 71 seat

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Randy Cooper likes to think of himself as a pragmatist.

The 60-year-old Democrat is one of three candidates running to succeed Republican Jim Boyd in Florida House District 71, which encompasses much of Manatee County and a bit of North Sarasota County.

He says his political philosophy could be labeled “practical and pragmatic,” and says the main impetus compelling him to run for office is his belief that the Legislature is not listening to the voters.

“If public schools aren’t doing well, funding the charter schools isn’t a solution,” he says. “Let’s help the public schools first, try to build them up, instead of making a for profit charter school.”

He also believes that local governments are better suited to regulate property rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, specifically mentioning the areas in Anna Maria Island, Palma Sola and other parts of northwest Bradenton.

“They’re taking over neighborhoods, and ruining whole communities,” he says of those companies, sounding a little bit like Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “People have to have a say about what’s going on in their neighborhoods.”

Cooper owns R. Cooper Engineering, an agricultural engineering consulting firm, and is a self-described moderate. “As an engineer,  I’m pragmatic – maybe to a fault,” he says.

He is disparaging of Gov. Rick Scott’s trips to other states to recruit businesses, saying it reeks of political opportunism. He says more needs to be done to boost local businesses, and he likes Visit Florida but would be just fine if Enterprise Florida faded away.

Cooper is the lone Democrat in the race, and the odds of his winning the seat may be formidable. He raised no campaign contributions in June, and overall has raised just $5,325 since entering the contest in March.

Meanwhile, the two Republicans in the contest have both raised more than $100,000.

James Buchanan, the son of Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, raised $6,000 last month and overall has raised $162,630.

Bradenton attorney Will Robinson raised $4,400 in June, and overall has taken in $118,275.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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