Democratic Nominee, 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 is pro-choice, pro-small business and a strong advocate of voting rights. She advocates for easier voter registration, classifying voter suppression as a felony, a uniform statewide early voting schedule and mandatory post-election audits. Here's where she stands on other issues.
On her campaign site, Dukes 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 that rather than arm teachers with guns, schools need adequate funding to provide psychologists and social workers to deal with bullying that may be a cause of gun violence at schools.
If teachers are expected to stay in the classroom, contracts made with the teachers should be maintained, Dukes told the Orlando Sentinel during a candidates forum that her opponent Dennis Baxley opted not to participate in. She pointed to measures passed years ago for classroom sizes that were sought by teachers and parents and added that lawmakers needed to respect the will of the people. The Orlando Sentinel recently endorsed Dukes.
Since data shows that minorities are disproportionately stopped, arrested and sentenced, Dukes proposed on her campaign site that community policing live up to the “community” part of the practice. This means that every law enforcement agency would create and maintain a fully funded civilian oversight commission that reflects “its community’s race, gender, industry and occupations.”
On their own websites, law enforcement agencies would post data on stops, arrests and internal affairs investigations; county courts would post data on sentencing and the state attorney’s office would post data on representation of defendants and outcomes. There should also be annual audits showing patterns of racial and gender inequalities.
SECOND AMENDMENT/GUN SAFETY
Dukes stated on her website that she’s a “firm believer” in the Second Amendment, but “sensibility is necessary for its interpretation.” She's called for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
STATE BUDGET PRIORITIES/STATE REVENUES
Dukes told the Orlando Sentinel that the state budget should cover society’s basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. She said the state needs to ensure that programs like the fund created by the Sadowski Act, which is dedicated to the construction of affordable housing and related activities, must “go properly where it was supposed to” and not be used for other unrelated purposes. She said when those funds are used appropriately and the state accepts federal funds to expand Medicaid, then dollars can be focused on other areas like education, rather than relying on the state lottery system. She added that the lottery system has become the “sole source of educational funding.” She supports expanding Medicaid for some behavioral health services. In terms of whether hotel taxes should only be used to fund tourism as state law mandates, Dukes told the Orlando Sentinel she'd like to see local governments have more control over how their money is spent .
Dukes took moment to talk about the unemployment system, which she described as "designed to fail." She said there needs to be a better, rapid response system that meets the needs of applicants who need immediate financial help. “Our government is there to serve our people and particularly through a time of crisis. We shouldn’t be playing politics, again with the basic needs: food, clothing and shelter.”
When asked what other ways could affordable housing be met apart from appropriate use of the Sadowski fund, Dukes said local municipalities are seeking land to build shelters for homeless people and their needs should be met. For residents who are living paycheck to paycheck, she said that a certain percentage of housing developments should be affordable and not high end.
Hurricane Ian laid bare Centrala Florida's flooding vulnerabilities and scientists say it will only get worse. Dukes told the Orlando Sentinel that she favors research but that housing developments that have stripped away trees need to be redeveloped with trees because they help manage flooding. She added that governments need to plan for proper drainage including sewer and retention ponds to mitigate problems down the road. In addition, according to Dukes' campaign site, she supports boosting funding to protect against rising sea levels.
On other environmental issues, her site noted that 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 and better regulation for the water bottlers drawing from the state’s spring waters so the resource isn’t depleted.
Senate District 13 is considered heavily Republican, but Dukes told the Orlando Sentinel that residents "should just see the ‘D’ as Dukes,."
“No matter whether [you’re] a Democrat, Republican, Black or white, the issues are real plain, they’re real simple.," she said. "They get muddy when we try to control one another, and not really work at ‘What’s best for everyone.’ Knowing that when we sit at the table, it is negotiation time. It is not the time to say the table belongs to me. The table belongs to the people. And, in my instance, the table belongs to all of the people of District 13.”