ST. PETERSBURG — The transformation from misunderstood activist to powerful insider is complete.
State Rep. Darryl Rouson, the former local NAACP president whose controversial antics earned him equal amounts of praise and criticism, looked likely to win re-election in November after easily defeating his primary opponent Charles McKenzie.
"I am absolutely happy that the people of this district have chosen me again," Rouson said. "We took no area of this district for granted. We left no stone unturned."
Across Tampa Bay, two other House incumbents also easily defeated challengers: Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton and Betty Reed, D-Tampa. And Pasco Democrat Fred Taylor won his primary to challenge Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey in November.
It was the second time in six months that McKenzie lost the District 55 seat to Rouson. The men faced off in the special primary in March after Frank Peterman vacated the seat to become the state juvenile justice secretary. The district spans parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Rouson will face write-in candidate and Republican Calvester Benjamin-Anderson in the general election. The two also battled for the seat in the special general election. Then, Benjamin-Anderson barely campaigned or raised funds, but Rouson said he will not take a general election victory for granted.
"We are going to work hard and show the people that we deserve their support," he said.
State Senate District 11
Taylor, 60, a Vietnam veteran from New Port Richey, easily beat college student Richard Skandera of Palm Harbor in the Democratic primary. The coastal district runs from northern Pinellas through Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
"I think the message is very clear," Taylor said of his November race. "No more big special interests. No more supporting the big insurance companies over the little guy.
State Democrats have spent nearly $49,000 helping Taylor in a bid to oust Fasano, in one of their priority races.
But Taylor is way behind Fasano's campaign war chest. The powerful lawmaker has raised $490,000 so far. Outside the state party help, Taylor has raised less than $20,000, but promises to do much more.
State House District 59
Winning by a wide margin, Reed celebrated her re-election to the State House with her supporters in Ybor City.
Because Reed's only challenger was a Democrat, the race was decided Tuesday for the district that stretches through parts of central and East Tampa.
"The citizens have spoken," Reed said. "They want me to go back and serve them. I just feel blessed and honored to be able to do that."
Reed, a 67-year-old retired educator, already has plans for her second term: She wants to follow up on a bill she sponsored to investigate the high infant mortality rate in the black community.
State House District 67
In Bradenton, three-term state Rep. Ron Reagan was a step closer to a fourth term.
An insurance agent at MGA Insurance Group in Lakewood Ranch, Reagan, 54, was beating fellow Republican Kirk Faryniasz by a wide margin in Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties at press time.
"The fact that I've lived here for 35 years and raised my family here and had my businesses here and been in office for six years, it's clear for the people who voted for me that they knew who they were voting for and what they were getting," Reagan said.
District 67 takes in parts of southeast Hillsborough County and parts of eastern Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Reagan now faces Bradenton Democrat Richard Jackson in the general election.