Chris Gregg cruised to an easy win over Jim Mathieu in Tuesday's Republican primary for House District 36 in west Pasco County.
Gregg held a comfortable lead early on and never let go. With almost all precinct totals in, he held a 58.5 percent lead to Mathieu's 41.5 percent, making him his party's nominee in the November general election against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Amanda Murphy.
"It feels great. We did a lot of hard work and grass roots campaigning, and it just paid off," said Gregg, who spent Tuesday night at home fielding congratulatory calls and cooking dinner for his wife, Alena, and their two children. "I'm looking forward to the general election and doing the same kind of campaigning, knocking on doors and keeping my head down and doing the work that needs to be done."
Gregg lined up endorsements from state Sen. John Legg and House Speaker Will Weatherford, among others. He also had help from Families for Lower Taxes, an electioneering communications group that uses PAC money to support conservative Republicans.
The Melbourne-based group sent an attack mailer accusing Mathieu of backing Obamacare and higher taxes while lauding Gregg as the "conservative choice."
Mathieu, however, outspent Gregg in the campaign. Not including spending by political committees, Gregg spent about $16,000 to Mathieu's $19,000, campaign finance reports show.
But Gregg said it was door-to-door campaigning and "a ton of calls" that made the difference in the race. That, he said, and "being a veteran that people can relate to, and being conservative."
Gregg's win was a surprise as Mathieu, chairman of the Republican Party in Pasco, was more well-known than his opponent.
Mathieu ran in last year's special election for the same House seat, but lost in the primary to Presbyterian minister Bill Gunter. Days after Murphy beat Gunter in the general election, Mathieu, 60, a lawyer, announced plans to run again.
Gregg, 44, works for a Miramar-based company that operates blood-testing labs for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He has run unsuccessfully for public office twice before: for state House in 2000 as a no-party candidate and in 2009 in the Pasco County Commission Republican primary, losing to Kathryn Starkey. Gregg, however, mustered a respectable showing in the race. He came in second in a five-way primary.
Contact Rich Shopes at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236. Follow @richshopes.