POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- A special election is being held May 1 for State House District 39, which was vacated by Neil Combee in 2017.
- District 39 covers parts of Polk, Osceola counties
- Josie Tomkow and Ricky Shirah competing for post
- Link: Josie Tomkow's website
- Link: Ricky Shirah's website
The district covers Auburndale, Polk City, north Lakeland and north of Interstate 4 along Highway 27 and the Celebration area of Osceola County.
The candidates are Republican Josie Tomkow, 22, of Polk City and Democrat Ricky Shirah, 64, of the Kathleen area of Polk County.
Tomkow graduated from the University of Florida in 2017. She is a Pasco High School alum who is a President Donald Trump supporter, pro-life and she vows to keep taxes low.
"I'm going to strongly push for keeping our second amendment rights where they are," Tomkow said. "I think that's an important thing. And I'm going to continue to grow our economy. And I truly think that all goes down to the strong conservative principles and values we have in leadership."
Shirah said he is a proud Democrat and a Polk county native. He's no stranger to politics, as he ran for House District 40 in the past, as well as the Lakeland Commission four times.
"We're not going to make age an issue but I know more about the issues than she does." - Democrat Ricky Shirah
He graduated from Kathleen High School. He has worked for Publix and currently owns a towing company. He said he recently traded in his AR-15.
"There's no sense in owning these assault weapons is the way I feel," Shirah said. "Now I am a gun owner. I'm an avid sportsman. I love my guns. You're not going to take them away. But I've never seen a hunter in a tree stand with an assault weapon to kill an animal. I mean, if you're that bad, you don’t need to be hunting."
Both candidates are pro agriculture. Tomkow's family runs the Cattleman’s Livestock Market. Shirah was the past President of Future Farmers of America in Polk County.
They said their age also sets them apart.
"I worked in Tallahassee, and I can't help that I have connections in Tallahassee and here in the district." - Republican Josie Tomkow
"We're not going to make age an issue but I know more about the issues than she does. I feel like I know what our community needs more than she does," said Shirah.
Tomkow said: "I've been involved since I was 16 years old. I've traveled to DC and Tallahassee every year in order to advocate for our industry and in order to see it thrive. And so I think my age is a strength because I'm someone who's not going to get tired doing this job."
Tomkow has raised more than $148,000 for her campaign, 10 times more than Shirah.
"Follow the money trail. See where it came from. NRA, special interest," Shirah said.
"I worked in Tallahassee, and I can't help that I have connections in Tallahassee and here in the district," Tomkow said.
"I think that people discredit me a lot for the funds that I've received from Tallahassee because if you look at the list of people who've donated to my campaign and my supporters, most of them are from here in the district. It's overwhelming to see the support that I have received. “
Early voting in this special election runs through April 28.