Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Democrat replaces candidate who dropped out of Florida House race

SPRING HILL — Prominent Spring Hill attorney Jason Melton announced his candidacy for the state Legislature Thursday, replacing Joseph Puglia on the Democratic ticket.

Puglia, a local business owner and first-time candidate, withdrew from the race for House District 44 last week after his wife's health seriously deteriorated.

His name will still appear on the ballot, which was already printed, but a vote for Puglia is now a vote for Melton.

The switch gives Melton, 34, a former prosecutor now in private practice, the difficult task of building a campaign from scratch less than 40 days from Nov. 4. Not to mention, some absentee ballots are already in voters' hands. Those that receive them in coming days will get a notice of this switch along with the ballot, said Annie D. Williams, Hernando County's supervisor of elections.

"I think it will be a challenge for some voters who haven't necessarily read every story," Melton said from Tallahassee, where he traveled to file his formal election papers.

"But ultimately … it doesn't change the message and doesn't change the campaign. It's not about me, it's about the issues."

Melton, who is the former president of the Hernando County Bar Association, faces Republican Robert Schenck, a first-term incumbent who narrowly won the seat in 2006, and Sarah Roman, a little known Green Party candidate. The district covers most of Hernando County and parts of Pasco County.

Melton considered entering the race as the Democratic candidate earlier this year but decided against it when Puglia came forward. Now he feels it's necessary from someone to step up.

"In the last five months, this district has changed a lot," he explained. "The economic vulnerabilities have been exposed even more now."

Like Puglia, Melton said the top issue is the economy and adding jobs in Hernando. He attributed the county's 9 percent unemployment rate, the seventh highest in the state, to one-dimensional focus on the building industry and the need for better education to create a more skilled work force.

"Nobody's out there fighting for us," he said.

He also said he wants to tap into the anti-incumbent sentiment among voters. "Much of my support comes from the fact that voters are upset with the status quo," he said.

Schenck said Melton's entry to the race won't change his approach. "We continue to campaign as though we always were," he said.

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Democrat replaces candidate who dropped out of Florida House race 09/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 1:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey


    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign


    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.