Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rep. Schenck is shoo-in as challenger drops out

BROOKSVILLE — Democrat Joseph Puglia, a once highly touted challenger to incumbent state Rep. Robert Schenck, withdrew from the race Wednesday, citing his wife's health.

"I couldn't represent the people of the district and be a husband fairly," said Puglia, who spoke by telephone from a hospital emergency room where his wife was being treated.

"She's been encouraging me to stay in the race. I appreciate her desire but I know in my heart I couldn't get in the car and drive to Tallahassee and leave her behind."

Puglia's campaign never really got off the ground as personal issues dominated his time in recent months. At first it was the sale of his business, and now his wife's health.

The departure gives Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican in his first term, a virtual lock on the district, which encompasses much of Hernando County and portions of Pasco County. Democrats and Republicans previously considered it one of the tougher contests in the state.

In November, Schenck will still face a challenger, Green Party candidate Sarah Roman.

But the 21-year-old novice, who apparently lives outside the district and joined her party the day she qualified for the race, is not considered by political observers to be a serious contender.

Schenck said he would still campaign aggressively for the seat and said his prayers are with Puglia's family. "I certainly understand his position, as a father and a husband myself," he said.

Puglia acknowledged that he faced an uphill battle. But local and state Democratic Party leaders were optimistic that the first-time candidate's biography as a "working Joe" would appeal to voters.

Incoming state House Democratic Party leader Franklin Sands played an integral role in recruiting Puglia, a 41-year-old retired New York police officer and United Airlines pilot. He recently owned a small business, Big Redd Carting, a local trash collection service.

From a political perspective, "it's disappointing," said Kevin King, a Florida Democratic Party official coordinating campaign efforts for the state House. Still, he added, "it's probably in his best interest to take care of some family stuff before running for office."

The timing leaves Democrats in a bind. King said they have until Saturday to find a candidate to replace Puglia, but he said he didn't expect that to happen.

Puglia announced his decision in a statement just before 2 p.m. He then went to a doctor's appointment with his wife, Marianne, 44. But they soon went to the hospital after she began experiencing chest pains.

He said his wife suffers from severe anemia, a blood disorder that requires frequent transfusions. But she is still undergoing testing and must see more specialists before her condition is fully known, he said.

Puglia kept the door open for a future campaign, saying in his statement that he would continue working "to make Florida a place where hard-working people can earn a living and where their families will be healthy and safe."

In an interview, he added, "I'm down but not out."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Rep. Schenck is shoo-in as challenger drops out 09/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?

    Blogs

    The following is from the Miami Herald:

  3. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  4. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  5. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]