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Committee of 2 will replace Traviesa on fall ballot

TAMPA — Timing can mean a lot in life, particularly in politics.

Take District 56. At the start of the week, it looked as if state Rep. Trey Traviesa was cruising to re-election.

But when he announced Tuesday that he was dropping out, it left a void for Republicans. If Traviesa had done this before June 21, there would have been time for other registered Republicans to enter the race.

Because he announced after the June 21 qualifying deadline, though, state law says the task of replacing Traviesa on the general election ballot falls to an obscure committee of Republicans.

So, instead of 40,000 registered Republicans deciding among an open field, three unelected people unknown to the general public will pick the Republican nominee in a heavily conservative district.

In other words, whoever these three people choose stands a good chance of getting elected to represent a district that stretches east from Davis Islands.

And it doesn't even look as though three people will decide. One of the committee members, lawyer A.J. Matthews, is in the Coast Guard. He'll be out of the country until the end of August. By then, the two other members, David Storck and Carol Carter, will have made a decision.

Neither could be reached for comment.

But a flurry of possible candidates were getting ready to make their pitch.

"It's a very unique situation," said Mark Proctor, an eastern Hillsborough County political consultant and real estate broker who said he will seek Storck's and Carter's vote. "But whoever they choose, and I'm definitely qualified, it will be difficult for the Democrats to find anybody."

Well, actually, there is a Democrat in the race.

Lewis Laricchia of Valrico qualified along with Traviesa.

Traviesa said he had been fielding a number of phone calls from people floating possible replacements. Mentioned were Jamie Wilson, a former state Republican Party official who is now in-house lobbyist for the Moffitt Cancer Center; former state Rep. Sandy Murman; and Rachel Burgin, a Traviesa aide. He also mentioned Tampa Bay Lightning lobbyist Ron Pierce, who was a policy director for former Senate President Tom Lee; and Terry Kemple of Valrico, president of the conservative Community Issues Council.

"These are all dear friends of mine," Traviesa said. "There's not a bad choice among them."

He said he didn't delay his decision as part a strategy to control who gets the nomination. He said this past year was difficult because for the first time since he was elected in 2004, his family didn't accompany him to Tallahassee. So he spent much of the legislative session jetting back and forth.

That took a toll, and he concluded he needed to spend more time with his family and a health care business that was getting busier. "This is not undemocratic," Traviesa said. "We have political parties for a reason. This is one of them. This is their window of authority."

Committee of 2 will replace Traviesa on fall ballot 08/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:52pm]
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