Rep. Cliff Stearns (R)
Florida 6th District
The flat grasslands of central Florida, once bypassed by southbound tourists heading for the coastal resorts and cities, have over the past two decades become a prime growth area in this high-growth state. Central Florida’s economy once depended on farming, on tourists getting off the interstate, and on state institutions, most notably the University of Florida in Gainesville. Then retirees began settling in places like the bluegrass country around Ocala, one of America’s prime horse-breeding grounds, and Leesburg, perched on a narrow spit of land between Lake Griffin and Lake Harris. Initially, these areas were studded with trailer parks, but the 1990s brought more-upscale development, albeit nothing approaching the high-rise apartments and gated communities that line the coasts farther south. At the same time, the large citrus groves have been cut back, victims of booming property values and of environmental changes that have resulted in devastating frosts and more diseases. Some of this development is at the intersection of Lake, Marion and Sumter counties in the sprawling “The Villages” retirement community. This part of central Florida grew by 19% from 2000 to 2007.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Florida includes much of central Florida and also part of the Jacksonville metropolitan area, connected by a strip of lightly populated counties. In the south, it includes parts of Marion and Sumter counties, around Ocala, and a corner of Lake County. In the north, it includes the western part of Jacksonville’s Duval County and most of Clay County. In between, it includes most of Alachua County except for Gainesville. On balance, this is a Republican district. Alachua is one of the few Florida counties to regularly vote Democratic, but its most heavily Democratic precincts are located in the 3rd District. The country around Ocala and the Villages in the south is Republican. Western Jacksonville and Clay County, with many military retirees, are even more Republican. In the 2008 presidential race, Republican John McCain won 71% of the vote in Clay County, and 57% in the district.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R)
Elected: 1988, 11th term.
Born: April 16, 1941, Washington, DC .
Education: George Washington U., B.S. 1963.
Family: Married (Joan); 3 children.
Military career: Air Force, 1963–67.
Professional Career: Data Control Systems Inc., 1967–68; Negotiator, CBS, 1969–70; Pres., Stearns House Inc., 1972–present.
The congressman from the 6th District is Cliff Stearns, a Republican first elected in 1988. The son of a U.S. Justice Department attorney, Stearns grew up and attended public schools in Washington, D.C. After college, he served in the Air Force, where he was a specialist in satellite reconnaissance. In the early 1970s, he saw potential in land development in Florida and moved to Ocala. He ultimately ended up owning five motels, three restaurants and other properties, while also becoming active in community affairs. In 1988, he beat the favored candidate for the district seat, Democratic state House Speaker Jon Mills, 54%-46%. “I was elected to put the federal government on a diet,” Stearns said, and went on to compile a mostly conservative voting record. Since losing a low-level leadership contest in 1994, he has been an occasional maverick. He bucked party leaders on free trade in the 1990s and complained about the growth in the federal deficit under President Bush. “We used to be the party of accountability and fiscal responsibility,” he said. Stearns also supports ending automatic cost-of-living increases for members of Congress.
|Cliff Stearns (R)||228,302||(61%)||($789,774)|
|Tim Cunha (D)||146,655||(39%)||($249,754)|
|Cliff Stearns (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (65%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (100%), 1996 (67%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (65%), 1990 (59%), 1988 (54%)
Stearns has been a productive legislator. On the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he sponsored a center to do research on Gulf War syndrome. For his district, he secured expansion of a veterans’ hospital in Gainesville and a new national cemetery in Jacksonville. On Energy and Commerce, he has worked on health care and Internet policy. In 2004, he won House passage of a bill to restrict abuses of computer spyware. His Do-Not-Call Implementation Act became law and authorized the Federal Trade Commission to establish a national registry of consumers who opt out of telemarketing calls. He helped to enact the anti-spam law that requires most commercial e-mail to be labeled and to have a valid return address. He was the chief sponsor of the widely debated 2005 legislation that limited lawsuits against the firearms industry when their products are used in crimes. The House also passed a bill with his provision to protect consumers from price-gouging during fuel emergencies. He backed a measure that opened parts of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas leasing, but he opposed new drilling in Florida waters. He held hearings on problems in college athletics, including gambling and recruitment.
But Stearns suffered some setbacks. The House defeated his proposal for a Federal Boxing Commission, with enforcement of uniform standards, and he lost on an amendment to prohibit federal funds for bilingual ballots and language assistance under the Voting Rights Act. With his diminished role under Democratic rule, Stearns has worked to make the Do-Not-Call Registry permanent and to enhance its enforcement. In 2009, he became the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He has pressed for additional steps to protect personal privacy as corporations use computers to collect vast amounts of information on people.
In 2008, Stearns won re-election easily, 61%-39%, over Democratic Ocala attorney Tim Cunha. But Alachua, which produced the second largest vote among the counties in the district, backed the Democrat, 52%-48%. That could signal redistricting changes in 2011.