Smith: 'I've done exactly what I said'

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By Mike Wright

WHAT: State Representative District 34.
WHO: Independent Nancy Argenziano; Republican incumbent Jimmie T. Smith.
TERM: Two years.
COVERS: All of Citrus County and a small portion of Hernando County.
SALARY: $29,052.
ON THE BALLOT: Nov. 6 election.
ON THE WEB: www.chronicleonline.com/votersguide

CRYSTAL RIVER — When Jimmie T. Smith first ran for state representative two years ago, he promised to be accessible, visible in the community and to listen to constituents.

Now Rep. Smith, seeking re-election, says he has done just that.

Smith said one of most popular bills, requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, was suggested to him by someone at Howard’s Flea Market.

He said he uses Facebook, Twitter and email to perform constituent outreach.

And Smith said no representative before him has spent as much time interacting with citizens and organizations as he has.

“I’ve done exactly what I said when I ran the first time,” Smith told the Chronicle Editorial Board last week. “I’ve been the most active representative this community has ever had.”

Smith, an Inverness Republican, faces former state Sen. Nancy Argenziano in the Nov. 6 election. Argenziano is running as a member of the Independent Party.

Smith said he doesn’t always agree with constituents, but he listens to all sides.

“You cannot close yourself off to one issue,” he said.

Many of those discussions have come from Citrus County School District officials. Smith raised some eyebrows with a campaign mail piece in June that said he was the strongest advocate for public education in the entire Legislature.

Smith stood by that claim, despite some votes that Citrus County educators disagree with.

Smith gave this example: After learning the county wanted to schedule state end-of-course exams prior to the winter break to coincide with the semester’s end, Smith raised the issue during an education committee meeting with Department of Education officials present.

After that meeting, the state agreed with Citrus County’s request.

Argenziano suggests that Smith’s allegiance is not with the district, saying he has voted 100 percent of the time with Republican Party leadership.

Smith said he tries to secure backing from Democrats also. He said Democrats told him on several occasions that they couldn’t support his bills but they understood his reasoning.

“I have not played politics. I have been open-minded,” Smith said.

House members are allowed to sponsor six bills per session. Of Smith’s 12 sponsored bills, 11 passed both houses of the Legislature.

“The bills I ran came from my connection to the community,” he said. “I run issue bills trying to fix what’s broken in government.”

The drug-testing bill for welfare recipients, he said, is a crowning success. While critics have pointed out a relatively small percentage of positive drug tests, Smith said what the results don’t show is the people who have stopped using illegal drugs because they don’t want to lose state assistance.

“It’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he said.

Smith acknowledged his re-election bid against Argenziano does not fit the traditional incumbent vs. challenger race because Argenziano is a former member of the House, Senate and Public Service Commission. 

“I have a proactive work ethic,” Smith said. “I don’t demagogue anybody. At no point has she said she can work with the Republicans.” 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.