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Judith Vowels brings Democratic hopes to HD 23 race

Mike Wright

An Inverness woman who retired from a 30-year career with the Department of Corrections is taking a run at House District 23.

Judith Vowels, 65, becomes the third candidate in the open House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo, who is serving his eighth and final year.

She’s the lone Democrat. Citrus County, which accounts for all of HD 23 except for the Dunnellon area of Marion County, has nearly three times as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

Vowels said her career spanning 30 years with the Department of Corrections, culminating as a correctional probation supervisor in Inverness, equipped her with insights into the justice system and community safety.

She said she is committed to the cause of making homeownership and health insurance more affordable for all residents of Citrus County. Her vision includes developing strategies to ensure accessible and affordable housing.

“Homeowners insurance in Florida is in a crisis,” she said.

“It is impossible to maintain homeownership in our slice of heaven with the constant rising costs. It is no secret that Floridians cannot go without homeowners insurance. It is not a luxury. It’s a necessity due to our constant environmental battles. We need to attract the former insurance companies who left our state so that our homeowners have a competitive market to choose from.”

Vowels also said the state needs an answer to homelessness.

“The discussion that is not happening is how do we work together with agencies to get the right solution, not just temporary displacements,” she said. “Citizens in my district don’t want to see their fellow citizens struggling and displaced in the woods. We need to come together with stakeholders and agencies who help the situation and come with a solid plan to be proactive and not reactive.”

Vowels has an uphill battle off the bat. It’s been 30 years since a Democrat represented Citrus County in the House; a Democrat in the race two years ago withdrew before qualifying.

Republicans JJ Grow and Tod Cloud both ran for the seat in 2022 and are back. Grow dropped out after Massullo announced his re-election. Cloud finished second, well behind Massullo, in a three-candidate election.

Grow never closed his campaign account, and now has over $100,000 in reported collections, plus he loaned the campaign $100,000. Cloud’s donations dwarf in comparison: $6,635.

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