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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

John Legg to switch Senate races, square off with Jim Norman

State Rep. John Legg said Wednesday that he will be running in a different state Senate district, averting a blockbuster showdown with a fellow Pasco candidate but setting up another big race against incumbent Sen. Jim Norman of Tampa.

For months, Legg was running in District 18, the West Pasco/Hernando/Sumter seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. But he said he plans to make the switch to District 17 covering south Pasco and northwest Hillsborough so he doesn’t uproot his family. He and his wife Suzanne have been splitting time between her home in Trinity and another home Legg owns in Port Richey.

“We sat down, we talked and we said, ‘What do we want to do for our family?’” he said. “Bottom line is, that’s where we want to live and raise our kids.”

Legg began phoning Senate leaders Tuesday to let them know of his decision. Now the question is whether the Republican Party will remain true to its tradition of supporting incumbents in all cases — in this case, Norman.

Norman currently represents about two-thirds of the redrawn District 17, which includes a swath of south Pasco and the Carrollwood and Westchase areas in Hillsborough. Legg will be vying for an entirely new collection of voters, as the Senate seat does not overlap with the state House seat he’s represented for eight years.

But staying in District 18 would have meant a potentially heated battle with east Pasco egg farmer Wilton Simpson, who raised $220,000 through the first three months of the year and has released a television commercial and several mailers to introduce himself to voters.

The switch could nullify a potential attack against Legg, who has faced questions about whether his lives in the Port Richey home on his voter registration (in his old Senate district) or in his wife's home in Trinity (in Norman's district).

Though he’s a tough campaigner with 18 years of experience on the Hillsborough County Commission, political observers say Norman could be seriously wounded. In February, Norman signed an admission of guilt in an ethics case for not disclosing a $500,000 gift to his wife from a local businessman. At the time, his lawyer said he wanted to move on from the matter.

The case attracted the attention of federal authorities, who dropped charges after they could not prove that the gift was a crime. The Florida Senate likely will determine Norman’s punishment this fall.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 7:10pm]

    

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