Democratic candidate, Florida Senate District 13
Never held elective office.
Retired occupational specialist in public school systems; Community service and philanthropy
University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla., A.A.
Florida State University, B.S., Social Sciences, 1986
Democrat Stephanie Dukes of Clermont will face Republican incumbent Sen. Dennis Baxley in the newly drawn District 13, which covers Lake County and southwestern Orange County. She had intended to run for the House District 32 seat but decided to throw in her hat for the Senate seat. Two years ago, she lost to Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini for that same House seat.
According to her campaign website, Dukes, who has never held elective office, was an occupational therapist at a Leon County school and then with the Miami-Dade County Public School System. She suffered an injury on the job and took an early retirement in 2000. She says she has given more than 50,000 hours of community services and philanthropy with an interest in nonprofit management.
Dukes provides some detail about her priorities if elected to the Senate. On education, she said Florida ranks 45th in educational funding because procedural changes shortchanged the government-operated lottery system, reducing funding for education. She said those procedures need to be changed to provide adequate funding across the state. She also said schools need adequate funding to provide psychologists and social workers to deal with bullying that may be a cause of gun violence at schools rather than arm teachers with guns.
Dukes also supports expanded Medicaid coverage for some behavioral health services, which would expand coverage for uninsured Floridians but could also save state spending on certain programs such behavioral health services. She said she supports women being able to make their own choices in their reproductive healthcare.
On the economy, especially as Covid-19 persists, her campaign backs legislation that would provide grants for small businesses to help them develop plans that adjust for the “new normal.” She also said that legislation could help promote tourism for attractions that aren’t as well known. On voting, she would make voter registration easier, classify voter suppression as a felony, make early voting uniform statewide in terms of days and hours and make post-elections audits mandatory. In addition to improving community policing, Dukes called for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
On the environment, Dukes said she wants adequate funding to support the state’s land-acquisition program for conservation and recreation. She said she also opposes offshore oil and gas drilling to protect the state’s coasts as well as increased funding to protect against rising sea levels. She added that water bottlers drawing from the state’s spring waters should be better regulated so the resource isn’t depleted.
Earlier this year, she attended a Lake County Democratic Club vigil in Mount Dora to remember the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill and spoke to attendees.
"This is a democracy, not a country that is determined by dictator,” she said. “That is what was defended on January 6. We salute the true patriots that defended our democracy, our constitution," she said. "We're sad that we have to speak of the nearly 140 police officers who were injured protecting our democracy. Not a Republican, not a Democrat, not an Independent. A democracy. We lost five that day. They gave their lives for freedom."