Lawyer Richard Corcoran pulled off a victory Tuesday, winning the House District 45 seat over Pasco School Board member Kathryn Starkey and businessman Fabian Calvo in one of the area's most closely watched races.
Corcoran faces only write-in opposition in November for the two-county seat. He drew roughly 45 percent of the vote in Pasco and 40 percent in Pinellas in Tuesday's closed Republican primary.
Starkey, who comes from one of the area's best-known families, carried about 36 percent of the Pasco votes and 32 percent in the Pinellas.
Calvo, 32, a first-time candidate from Clearwater, had a strong showing, drawing not quite 20 percent of the votes in Pasco and almost 30 percent in Pinellas.
Corcoran, 45, who had twice run unsuccessfully for state office, said he was "humbled" by Tuesday's win.
"When I was at the polling place, somebody came up to me and said, 'You had the best message,' and we did," he said. "We went out there and said this whole thing is about taking back our state and our country for our children and our grandchildren."
Starkey, 52, said she would find other ways to stay involved in Pasco, where she has been an active civic volunteer.
"I'm disappointed, but I guess I'm glad it's all over," said Starkey, who was making her first run for state office. "I'm so proud of my race and how well we did, considering all the obstacles we were facing. It's very hard to go against the negative campaigning. ... But you know what? They ran a great race. I wish Richard well."
The race had been closely watched, because it featured a match-up between two very well-connected Republicans.
Starkey racked up endorsements from a number of Republican leaders in Pasco and Pinellas counties and former governor Bob Martinez.
Corcoran, who now works for Pasco Sheriff Bob White, counted state Sen. Mike Fasano, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb Bush among his supporters.
Combined, the three Republicans spent roughly $432,000 in their efforts to win the seat.
Through the last reporting period, Corcoran had raised the most — about $233,000 — and spent all but about $12,000. Starkey pulled in $145,000 and spent all but $11,000. Calvo raised nearly $54,000 and had about $500 left.
But that wasn't the only money spent on the race. Consultants for Corcoran and Starkey both sent out attack pieces, using political committees to finance the mailers.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.