Mike Wells, who had gone unopposed for 16 years, fended off a challenge on Tuesday from Walter Price Jr., the first step in his battle to remain Pasco County's property appraiser.
Unofficial totals show Wells getting more than 77 percent of the vote over Price, a 30-year-old private appraiser from Land O'Lakes.
"We anticipated victory from the beginning or I wouldn't have been in the race," said Wells, 65, who celebrated with about 100 supporters at Dade City's Kafe Kokopelli restaurant. He said his next step is to "hook up to the fifth wheel for a six or seven day RV trip and plan the next election."
Wells was first elected in the mid-1980s to the County Commission, where he pushed for a bond issue that paid for the county's parks and library system. He left the commission after two terms. Four years later, in 1996, he ran for property appraiser when longtime incumbent Ted Williams retired.
During his tenure, he's been known to stand up to corporations that routinely protested their property values. He was the last appraiser in Florida left standing when Winn-Dixie opposed its property values in 54 counties. The grocery chain eventually withdrew its challenge.
Wells recently announced a process to apply for homestead exemptions online and also rolled out an application to let people get data at a glance from their smart phones or iPads.
Wells will face Democrat Allison Newlon, a real estate agent from San Antonio, in the Nov. 6 general election. The property appraiser serves a four-year term and will earn $137,796 a year.