Now alone in primary, Florida House candidate Tommy Gregory sets platform for November

State Rep. District 73 candidate Tommy Gregory.
State Rep. District 73 candidate Tommy Gregory.

With the recent withdrawal of his only opponent in the Republican primary, Florida House District 73 candidate Tommy Gregory can focus on the general election later this year.

The now-presumptive Republican nominee will face Bradenton Democrat Liv Coleman, a political science professor at University of Tampa, for the seat in November.

Gregory’s former opponent in the primary election, Melissa Howard, said she would no longer seek office after scandal erupted over her claims she earned a degree from Miami University in Ohio. She went to great lengths to prove herself, including posing with what appeared to be a Miami University degree in a photo. The university’s counsel issued a statement saying the degree in the picture was not “accurate.”

Howard later apologized but originally said she intended to stay in the race. The next day, however, she announced she would withdraw. But, as of Friday afternoon, the Florida Department of State — which manages the state’s elections — had not received an official notice of withdrawal from Howard, according to communications director Sarah Revell.

Howard’s name will still appear on the Aug. 28 primary ballot.

Defending rights and enforcing laws are two major highlights of Gregory’s campaign, he said.

From a military family, Gregory served in the Air Force for 20 years. A former judge advocate general and prosecutor, he now works as a commercial litigation attorney at Williams Parker Harrison Dietz and Getzen in Sarasota. Experience in high-pressure situations and making difficult decisions fast, he said, will help him represent the district, which encompasses parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties, in Tallahassee.

“Fighting for our country and our community is what I’ve done my entire life,” Gregory said during Thursday’s meet-the-candidates Manatee Tiger Bay Club meeting at Pier 22. It was an opportunity for Gregory and Coleman, who is unopposed in the Democratic primaries, to address voters as they ramp up for the November race.

He received his law degree, with honors, from the University of Texas School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he graduated with military distinction.

Gregory was born in Tampa and grew up primarily in Pasco County. He also serves on boards for Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, St, Martha Catholic School and the Sarasota Republican Club, he said in his candidate questionnaire for the Bradenton Herald.

He touts a number of endorsements including former and current county commissioners, sheriffs, state and U.S. legislators, along with several organizations including the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Florida and realtor organizations.

On the issues:

Economy - Gregory Thursday commended current legislators and Gov. Rick Scott for improving Florida’s economy so far, but he wants to do more.

In efforts to bring more business to Florida, Gregory hopes to work toward fewer regulations and lower taxes to allow business to flourish.

“There’s a lot of things we can still cut so we can get government out of the way so business can do what they do best, and that’s create opportunities and expand the economy,” Gregory told those gathered at the Manatee Tiger Bay Club meeting.

Part of staying out of the way of businesses for Gregory includes not controlling how much they pay employees. When asked Thursday about whether he would support increasing the minimum wage, Gregory said when government interferes with adjusting wages it often leads to layoffs.

Individuals and working families are the key to prosperity in Florida, he said, adding the state must also invest in education and infrastructure.

Education - When asked about per-pupil funding in Florida and education policies Thursday, Gregory said there is always more legislators can do and student and school performance should be the measure of success, not how much is spent per student.

He would also like to see civics and financial literacy classes mandated in schools.

As for securing Florida’s schools, Gregory said he liked that legislature took action to work to increase security but he doesn’t think there is enough money in it and there is more work to be done.

Immigration - Gregory stated with no uncertainty Thursday his views on immigration - “I’m opposed to illegal immigration because it’s illegal.”

“We should welcome everybody to this county and respect what they contribute as long as they enter legally,” Gregory said.

He also addressed sanctuary cities, which he said “infuriates” him because the word is misused, inferring some sort of religious connotation. The federal government, he said, is the “supreme law of the land,” and added he would hold elected officials accountable, criminally if necessary, should they violate the federal law.

Environment - As red tide continues to dump dead fish on coastlines and in canals in Manatee and Sarasota counties, Gregory told the Bradenton Herald he would like to see studies funded to learn more about red tide and steps that can be taken to improve conditions.

Gregory said Thursday water quality protection regulations should be looked at every year by officials.