TAMPA — Tom Rooney was headed to an easy win Tuesday night in the Republican primary for the 10-county District 17 U.S. House seat.
With almost all of the precincts reported, Rooney was leading opponent Joe Arnold by a 3-1 margin.
"Our hard work paid off with the amount of events we did and amount of meetings we did," Rooney said from his victory party in Punta Gorda.
The newly created District 17 covers some of the same area Rooney currently represents in his role as the congressman for District 16. He will face Democrat William Bronson and Tom Baumann, a write-in candidate, in the November general election.
This was the first time Rooney, 41, ran in Hillsborough, where the new district encompasses the southeastern portion of the county, including Riverview and Sun City Center.
"It was basically like running for the first time again," Rooney said.
Other counties in the district are Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee and Polk.
Rooney credited his experience working with the agricultural industry, including his position as chairman of a U.S. House agricultural subcommittee, with helping him emerge as the winner. He does not currently live in the district but said he plans to move, if elected.
Arnold, his primary opponent, is a former school teacher and member of the Okeechobee County School District.
"We are looking forward to the general election," Rooney said, "and we should be in good shape there because of the makeup of the district."
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2442.