She’s a 30-year-old senior majoring in political science, divorced with two children ages seven and 11. She’s working her way through college as a self-employed paralegal. She’s a life-long Tampa resident and attends church on Sundays.
Just your average, run-of-the-mill USF student, right?
Well, maybe not, because Allison McInnis-Gimbert spends her free time running for Florida State Senator.
On Monday, McInnis-Gimbert addressed the USF College Democrats, describing her busy life and answering questions as to why she is running and if she is qualified for the office.
“I think that Florida is in some bad times,” McInnis-Gimbert said. “What makes me qualified is that I’m, first of all, a very concerned citizen. Everybody can be a concerned citizen, but only some people take it to the next level.
“I want to be an agent of change.”
McInnis-Gimbert said her young age and experiences as a USF student will be a benefit in the race. She said she will bring a fresh voice to the state government.
One of the ways McInnis-Gimbert said she hopes to make that point clear is through a “grass roots” campaign in which she will have no help and no big-money contributors.
“Most people think (campaign finances are) corrupt, and I can’t argue with them,” she said.
McInnis-Gimbert’s race is for the District 16 seat. The revamped boundaries that create the district include parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Her opponent is Republican incumbent Jim Sebesta, who has held the seat since 1998.
On paper, the two candidates are complete opposites. Sebesta was born in 1935, and received a master’s degree from DePaul University.
Before being elected to the state Senate, Sebesta served as Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
Sebesta has advocated reform in vote-counting, calling for the implementation of improved technologies. In addition, Sebesta has served on a state education committee, and as chairman for the Transportation Board, where he advocated a proposed light rail system.
McInnis-Gimbert told the College Democrats that despite Sebesta’s resume, she feels she’s the better candidate.
“A lot of people said you’re 30, and he’s 67; he has all the wisdom,” McInnis-Gimbert said. “You can be 37 years older than me, and you can be a legislator for x number of years, but that doesn’t make you a better representative of the people.”
McInnis-Gimbert’s platforms center around education and social reforms. She said she will call for better basic living standards for children and the elderly, as well as better working environments for social workers.
McInnis-Gimbert said she feels the public schools are in trouble. She said she will be an advocate of school reform, and that the fact she is currently a student is a motivation to that end.
“I think (being a student) gives me a unique perspective because I’m very much in tune with younger people,” McInnis-Gimbert said.
In addition to education and social reform, McInnis-Gimbert’s literature said she feels natural resources are vitally important to Florida. She said she will advocate protection of natural areas from incursions such as oil drilling.
McInnis-Gimbert said she is confident she can create reform if elected. Although she is facing an opponent with experience and more money to spend, she said she is ready for the push to the November election.
“I definitely want to do anything and everything I can to win,” McInnis-Gimbert said. “I have every confidence I can beat him.”
As for how her inexperience will affect her service if she is elected, McInnis-Gimbert said she feels that her fresh voice will be welcomed in Tallahassee.
“I don’t know the answers to everything,” McInnis-Gimbert said. “(The reason) I’m here is to learn.”