Early maneuvering begins in House District 45

NEW PORT RICHEY — State Rep. Tom Anderson says he has big things to do in Tallahassee. Protect needy seniors. Find ways to balance the budget. Make Floridians healthier.

But just as he starts his final two years in office, a couple of would-be replacements have begun angling for his job.

"And the body isn't cold yet," quipped Anderson, 76.

Not a soul bothered to run against the cordial former mayor of Dunedin in 2008. The last guy lost big.

But term limits force him to leave office in 2010 — and sparked interest in succeeding him.

Pasco County School Board member Kathryn Starkey, 51, said she is nearly certain to run for Anderson's District 45 seat in 2010. This month in Tallahassee, she was spotted courting support.

But so has attorney and political adviser Richard Corcoran, 43, who was chief of staff to House Speaker Marco Rubio. He left friendly notes for several Pasco County commissioners last week, before meeting with at least one, Ann Hildebrand, at her county office Thursday in New Port Richey.

Starkey and Corcoran, both Republicans, have actively courted opinionmakers in and out of the district, which includes north Pinellas and southwest Pasco counties. In fact, Anderson ran into Corcoran at Thursday's Pinellas County legislative delegation meeting. The next day, he saw Starkey at the Pasco version of the meeting.

Anderson said he's not worried about early entrants pulling attention from his own goals. After six mostly unassuming years in the House, the moderate Anderson was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Elder Affairs Policy Committee this year.

He also said he has not chosen sides, and another contender might come forward.

"It's a little bit early, I think," Anderson said. "But these days people sort of come out early and try to get support."

Corcoran said it's too soon to say he's running, too. But it wasn't too soon for him to try to win support as he graced the west Pasco offices of the County Commission.

Hildebrand, however, told him she couldn't back him, despite knowing him since he was a child.

Starkey had already won Hildebrand's pledge.

This month in Tallahassee, state Sen. Mike Fasano told Starkey the opposite: He's supporting Corcoran if he runs.

Their ties stretch back years. Corcoran, a Pasco native who previously worked as a lawyer in Crystal River and Tallahassee, has run unsuccessfully for the Florida House in 1998 and Senate in 2007. He also is a member of state's powerful Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.

Corcoran last made news when he resigned a $175,000-a-year job as Rubio's aide to run for the Senate, only to abruptly abandon the bid amid attacks. He said he recently began living in the Longleaf neighborhood, which was developed by Starkey's family.

Like Anderson, State Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, said the early maneuvering for the seat seems unusual. However, 28 nonincumbents have filed to run in 2010 for House races statewide. Starkey and Corcoran haven't turned in paperwork yet.

"Normally in Pasco County, people don't start running until a year before," said Legg, who is remaining neutral.

But Anderson would know a thing about timing. In November 2000, he was Dunedin's mayor. He told people he was ready for a change.

So he started talking people up about a new opportunity: running for the Florida House two years later. The incumbent, after all, was term-limited.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

Early maneuvering begins in House District 45 01/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 8:42pm]

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