Florida Democrats and Fred Taylor got their wish — he'll be the party's challenger in November to Republican state Sen. Mike Fasano.
Taylor, 60, a Vietnam veteran from New Port Richey, easily beat college student Richard Skandera of Palm Harbor in the Democratic primary. In unofficial but almost complete returns Tuesday, Taylor had netted nearly seven out of 10 votes in a coastal district spanning northern Pinellas and 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."
In the three other legislative primaries Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, incumbents were easily winning in incomplete late returns: Reps. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Republican Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton.
State Democrats have spent almost $49,000 helping Taylor in a bid to oust Fasano, R-New Port Richey, in one of their priority races. Fasano declined comment Tuesday night.
The only challenge to Taylor came last week. An independent group tied to the Florida Medical Association sent mailings blasting Taylor for being a former Republican and backing Skandera. The group endorsed Fasano.
"It didn't fool the Democratic Party members," Taylor said.
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 55
Rouson, the former local NAACP president whose controversial antics earned him equal amounts of praise and criticism, easily defeated primary challenger 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."
It was the second time in six months that McKenzie lost to Rouson. Rouson also defeated McKenzie in March's special primary for the seat formerly held by Frank Peterman, now the state's 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, who also opposed him in the special election for the seat. Then, Benjamin-Anderson barely campaigned or raised funds, but Rouson said he will not take a general election victory for granted.
State House District 59
Rep. Betty Reed will return to the state House after overwhelmingly defeating a fellow Democrat Tuesday, her only opponent. She celebrated her re-election to the state House with her supporters after a dinner in Ybor City. The district stretches through parts of central and East Tampa.
"The citizens have spoken," Reed said. "They want me to go back and serve them."
Reed, 67, a retired educator, wants to follow up on a bill she sponsored to investigate the high infant mortality rate in the black community.
This was the sixth election her opponent, lawyer Warren Hope Dawson, has lost since he first ran to be a state representative in 1970. Dawson, 68, says that his earliest runs paved the way for black candidates to win.
State House District 67
In Bradenton, three-term state Rep. Ron Reagan appeared to get a step closer to a fourth term Tuesday as unofficial and incomplete returns showed him easily defeating fellow Republican and opponent Kirk Faryniasz.
An insurance agent at MGA Insurance Group in Lakewood Ranch, Reagan, 54, will face Bradenton Democrat Richard Jackson in the November general election. His primary opponent, Faryniasz, 51, is a retired Air Force officer from Riverview. The district takes in parts of southeast Hillsborough County and parts of eastern Manatee and Sarasota counties.