About Debra Kaplan
How did I get involved? I never envisioned myself as a candidate before 2016. I was a political reporter covering national, state and local races in New England and local/state races in Florida. I would interview candidates and spend time on the campaign trail. I covered state conventions and election night was a annual event for me to cover. When I left journalism in 1997, I volunteered for many presidential, state and local races knocking doors, doing poll monitoring and calling voters. In 2016 I got angry on election night and decided to do something about it. We had never run a Democrat in SH 31 against Jennifer Sullivan and I decided to step up and do it. Even though we lost in 2018, we took her from a 40,000 vote plurality in 2016 over an NPA to 16,000 vote win over me. I decided this year I would have a stronger chance of winning because of name recognition I got by running in 2018. I still feel that way even though she is not seeking a fourth term. I know I can wage a tough fight against the Republican who wins their primary, and flip 31 blue.
Working History and Professional Achievements
When I was 14 our mother decided to provide a real taste of the working world to me. In Connecticut 14 and 15 year olds can work in agricultural jobs during the summer. As soon as summer vacation started, I began working for a tobacco leaf farmer. I joined neighborhood teens at 5 AM on the walk to the bus pick up point and began the daily journey to the farm 20 miles away. We were hired to pull the bottom leaves from the plants and tie the plants up. It was dirty, sweaty work and very little pay. We worked alongside migrant workers and experienced farm hands. At the end of the day we walked the mile home in our dirty clothes and sneakers. The job gave me a window into the working conditions of migrant workers and poor people who barely subsisted on the pay they were given. Unlike me, they didn't have a house to go home to and they often lived in rickety shacks. It made me grateful for my middle class life my parents provided to us.
My other precollege work experience included waitressing at an historic inn, short order cook and dietary aide at a hospital and a newspaper stringer for the Waterbury Republican where I wrote obituaries, circuit court summaries and covered meetings. I also worked briefly selling Fuller Brush door to door, babysitting and a brief stint in a local factory.
While in college, I worked for a local newspaper and a television station as an intern. In 1972 I graduated from Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts and worked in journalism positions writing news stories for a weekly paper, manning a video camera at a local cable television company and producing radio talk shows for a radio station. Because none of these jobs paid well, I worked multiple jobs to support myself. I had to fight to get non traditional beats such as police, government, and political beats because women were a rarity in covering hard news. I had to prove I was as "good" as a male reporter. In addition to dealing with sexism, I had to deal with a culture that often pushed the narrative that if a woman wanted to get a promotion she had to go along with improper advances from bosses. I never did that and walked away from some jobs when it was suggested. I never surrendered my morality for a promotion.
I moved to New Hampshire in 1974 and worked for a country western/talk station and sold advertising as well as covered news stories including the 1976 presidential primary. I had aan opportunity to cover Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Fred Harris, Henry Scoop Jackson and many others. I moved back to Connecticut in mid 1976 and went to work for the Hartford Courant as a town reporter and my beats were police, town government and human interests stories. In 1978 I had an opportunity to move to the Ansonia Evening Sentinel where I covered a variety of beats including local, county, state and national government and politics, medical, human interest, criminal justice and homicide, and the courts. At the Sentinel I developed a weekly business as well as an entertainment section. I won awards for reporting for a series on AIDs and how it impacted the community; the effects of the drug that was eventually known as crack; domestic violence as well as awards for a series on living with cancer. I also had a weekly political talk show called Byline and was part of a co hosted weekly talk show called Cable 10 Tonight, both of which won local Emmy's.
In 1988, I left journalism for a promotions job at SubWay World Headquarters and developed national campaigns to increase sandwich sales by buying product placement in Lethal Weapon II and Bull Duram. I also created a national Volly Ball competition to raise funds for the March of Dimes, as well as other charitable activities. I was also responsible for crisis management response and the production of a monthly magazine for 20 Franchise Markets.
When I moved to Florida in 1989, I worked for a weekly newspaper called the Sun Newspaper Group and covered Orlando government, emergency services, homicide and the arts scene in Orlando. The ownership of the paper closed it in December 1990. Left with the prospect of no paychecks, a group of employees hired an attorney and filed suite under the Federal Warn Act. We eventually negotiated a settlement for the money owed to us several years later.
During the early 1990s, I freelanced for many publications including the Jewish Heritage News and The Amerasian News. In 1992 I joined the Apopka Chief and Planter and remained there till 1997. During my stint there, I covered local and county government, emergency services, homicide, community events and organizations as well as human interest stories. I won reporting awards from the National Community Health Centers of America for a series on how the Apopka centers cared for people who lost their health insurance during the financial crisis of the early 1990s, and I received a reporting award from the Florida Press Association for a profile of a teenage wheelchair athlete.
In 1997 I left journalism to work for The Villages doing promotions, special events and the employee newsletter. My events included a polo match with the Bahamian team, a senior bowling tournament broadcast on CBS, a ladies golf tournament as well as the Senior Mrs. America Pageant. I hosted press visits to the community, worked with photographers and videographers to depict the community in a flattering light. I left 18 months later when the position was consolidated.
In 1998, I started a new career in business development for a company then called HIG, where I worked for clients in the high tech as well as financial services industries including Microsoft, Compact, HP, American Express, Ryder Logistics and many others. The company changed hands two other times during my 20 years there and I worked for Frost Bank of San Antonio, TX for the last 10 years of my tenure there. The bank awarded me their ICE award for Integrity Caring and Excellence in the way I performed for them. I also received Employee of the Month for sales performance numerous times.
I briefly retired to run for State House Representative for District 31 in 2018. I went back to work part-time in early 2019 as a consultant for a criminal attorney in Lake County handling trial research and preparation using my experiences working as a homicide and criminal trial reporter. I worked there until August 2019 when I returned to business development for an environmental health based cleaning company where I am a full time employee.