Tami Donnally puts a lot of stock in personal values.
“I’m just Tami,” said the wife, mother, former teacher, church administrator and second-time political office seeker. “When people ask me, ‘What are you going to do?’ I tell them, ‘What do you want me to do?’ It’s not just about what I want.”
The Republican is running again for the Florida House, but redistricting has shuffled the political deck. In 2010, she faced Democratic state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo in District 85. After winning the primary, she came within a few percentage points of ousting the incumbent.
This year, she’s running in the newly created District 86 against another incumbent, Democrat Mark Pafford, who is moving over from the Democrat-heavy former District 88.
Donnally admits it will be “a tougher race,” but not as hard as it could have been. The old District 88 leaned Democratic by about 14 percent. Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 10 percent in District 86.
Not one to depend on party labels, though, Donnally said she urges voters to judge candidates not by their political affiliations, but by their values.
The GOP hopeful wants the electorate to use her own values – personal, professional and family – as navigation tools on Election Day. Her dad, a former linotype operator, and mom, who worked at Sears while Donnally was growing up, have been married more than 50 years. A graduate of the Evangelical Bible College and Seminary with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in religious education, Donnally has four sisters, a daughter and two grandchildren.
She has put her education to work as a business administrator at EBC Ministries in Greenacres, an interdenominational church, seminary and school serving about 120 K-12 students where her husband is minister and president.
When she and her husband attended conferences “about trying to open doors for pastors so they are not afraid of politics,” Donnally said she became aware that voters “should make sure to look at the person’s values and not the party.”
That’s when Donnally took her first shot at political office. She considered a run for the Palm Beach County Commission, which is where her naïveté kicked in. “I had no idea they got paid,” she said. “I would have done it for free.”
Instead, she challenged Abruzzo, and nearly beat him, even though he spent $200,000 to her $30,000.
“I didn’t have enough money to send one last mailing just before the election,” she said, adding that it may been all it took to swing the results the other way.
This year, Donnally will again take the grassroots road to House District 86. She’ll meet voters face to face and hold signs on street corners, but this time, she’ll also use social media. The candidate has set up political and personal Facebook pages, both of which are accessible to the public.
Though she was a novice in the 2010 campaign, Donnally said, “I learned so much. I didn’t realize it during the process of running, but afterward, I was able to reflect on what I did right and did wrong.”
This year’s election, she said, “is about business and the economy. It’s not about social issues, it’s about jobs. I want to get to the business people – and not just Republicans. We are on the right track to get out of this situation, but we need people to be pro-business.”
Donnally did note, though, that many of the states leading the way to recovery are governed by Republican leaders.
If she gets to Tallahassee, she said, she wants to tackle the 800 or so anti-business regulations still on the books, while also cutting business income taxes and offering corporate tax incentives to draw more companies to the state and Palm Beach County. She also supports creating task forces to help new firms relocate to the Sunshine State.
Donnally said that at debates and political forums, “the first question I get relates to me being a minister’s wife.” She said she is socially and fiscally conservative, but is not “right-wing crazy.”
“I have strong values and strong convictions,” she said. “My goal and focus are on business. I do this with integrity, and I’ll carry these values to get the job done.”
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