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Chris Sprowls gets a Democratic opponent in his bid for reelection to HD 65

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Bernie Fensterwald, a Dunedin based Democrat, filed paperwork in Tallahassee on Wednesday to run against Republican Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race.

Sprowls, first elected in 2014 and on a fast track to House leadership, has raised over $168,000 to date in his bid for reelection to the seat, which encompasses He also has a separate political committee called Floridians for Economic Freedom. That organization raised $122,000 in May and had about $297,000 on hand.

Fensterwald is currently retired after a career as an attorney, though he says he’s still somewhat involved in a self-storage company.

He says the number one thing that motivated him to file against Sprowls was the Palm Harbor Republican’s vote for a fracking bill in the last legislative session. Although he says that any such fracking is unlikely to occur in Pinellas county, “that we would even think about threatening the environment” was enough to compel him to get involved.

That legislation, sponsored by Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, required the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct study into the impact fracking, and other high pressure well stimulation techniques, have on Florida’s water and geology.  It also requires the agency to designate FracFocus, a national chemical disclosure registry, as the state’s chemical disclosure registry; increase penalties from $10,000 a day per violation to $25,000 a day per violation; and requires drillers to get a permit before they can begin fracking.

The bill also prohibited local governments from instituting bans, but allowed local governments to adopt and enforce zoning and land use regulations as long as those rules don’t “impose a moratorium on, effectively prohibit, or inordinately burden” those activities. It was strongly opposed by environmental groups.

Though it passed in the House, it’s companion in the Senate failed to win approval.

Fensterwald also said he’s a big supporter of improving public education.

Fensterwald acknowledges that he likely won’t be competitive financially against Sprowls, but says he thinks he can be when it comes to volunteer people power and when it comes to the battle of ideas.

He intends to issue a statement telling more about him and his candidacy in the next day or so.

District 65 includes Clearwater, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor in northern Pinellas County.


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

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