Barrow Challenges Burton for State House Seat

Three-term Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton has a challenger for her job. Jan Barrow, 57, has filed as a Democrat to unseat Burton from the District 40 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

The Lakeland-based district stretches from Gibsonia south to Lakeland Highlands. (map)

Barrow told LkldNow that she realizes Burton is more than a formidable foe. “But I think I can win. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said.

Barrow said she’s in the race for the little guy, “the people who work so hard, often for so little, the people we all depend on.

“Someone needs to fight every day for the working class in Lakeland, which I believe is being underrepresented,” Barrow said.

Barrow said she has always been politically interested. She became an activist in the aftermath of the election of  President Donald Trump. In 2017 she co-founded the Democratic Women’s Club of Lakeland.

The club is still viable with about 150 members, Barrow said.

Barrow received media coverage in January 2019 when she filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, whose district includes much of Lakeland.

Her complaint said two people, Karen Hunt and Cary Carreno, gave Spano personal loans totaling $180,000 during his campaign. Spano then loaned $167,000 to his campaign, saying in required campaign finance reports that the money was his personal money.

The allegation is still under investigation.

And Barrow, with Jacquie Torres, started a group that has so far made and distributed 2,800 masks, mostly to medical facilities and Lakeland police, for protection against the novel coronavirus.

Barrow is in a 10-year relationship with her partner, Ed Parker.

She’s had a 23-year career in the tourism industry working for Miami-based VRI Americas as a director of business and corporate development. She’s currently on furlough because of the pandemic. 

She said she’s “no AOC” — referring to Democratic Socialist U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — but believes Burton “is way too far to the right” and “the uber wealthy have plenty of representation.”

She said the environment and education are two of her top priorities and Florida deserves better in both categories. Barrow said she’d like to see a big reduction in political fighting and bickering.

 Burton  took office on November 18, 2014. Her current term ends on November 3, 2020.

Burton said she doesn’t know Barrow and therefore didn’t want to comment on her. But Burton did say she “represents every single individual in Florida. I try to be a voice for the voiceless.”

Burton says she has been a legislative advocate for protecting some of Florida’s most vulnerable people, mostly elderly people being preyed on financially.

She said one reason she didn’t want to comment on Barrow is she’s busy trying to help people who have been hurt one way or another by coronavirus, including helping people navigate the unemployment system.

One person who isn’t shy about talking about Barrow is Greg Williams, who filed to run against Burton last year as a Democrat. He has withdrawn from the race, he said, because of Barrow.

“Jan is such a great person and great candidate,” Williams said in a text message. “She will do a great job being a real representative of ALL the people in our district.”

Florida representatives are paid $29,697per year.

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