BROOKSVILLE — In a tight race, Jimmie T. Smith defeated incumbent Ron Schultz on Tuesday for the District 43 seat in the State House.
Because both are Republicans and no others ran for the seat, all voters in the Citrus, Hernando and Levy county portions of the district were allowed to cast ballots in the universal primary race.
Smith, a 44-year-old security guard at the Progress Energy nuclear power plant in Crystal River and retired Army staff sergeant, ran as a tax-less-and-spend-less conservative with beliefs aligned with the tea party.
He favors incentives for businesses to create jobs and the repeal of licensing and registration cost increases passed recently by the Legislature. Smith also opposes tying teacher pay to student performance.
Schultz, 71, was property appraiser in Pinellas and Citrus counties for 27 years. He has served in the State House since 2007 and campaigned on his experience as a longtime public servant.
Barbara Behrendt, Times staff writer
State House District 44
Rowden wins Democratic primary
Diane Rowden easily defeated her two Democratic opponents Tuesday in her first run for state House.
Rowden will now face Republican incumbent Robert Schenck in November. The district includes most of Hernando County and parts of Pasco and Sumter counties.
A two-term Hernando County commissioner who was defeated in 2008, and who also served three years on the Hernando School Board, Rowden, 60, cited her desire to continue her public service as her reason for running. She lives in northwest Hernando County, outside the district, and has vowed to move into the district by the November election.
"I'm very happy and appreciative of the supporters out there," Rowden said. "The people are looking for someone to be their voice, and they haven't had that for a long time in Tallahassee in District 44."
Opponent Jay A. Thompson, 31, an instructor at both Pasco-Hernando Community College and the College of Central Florida, congratulated Rowden an hour and a half after polls closed and offered his help to her.
Perennial candidate H. David Werder, 55, also ran for the seat when he couldn't raise enough signatures to run again for Congress.
Barbara Behrendt, Times staff writer
State House District 48
Nehr clinches Republican nod
Incumbent Peter Nehr defeated two GOP challengers in pursuit of his third term. He maintained a healthy lead Tuesday night over Steven Mueller, 41, and Marg Baker, 69.
"I was a little bit concerned because you never know in this political atmosphere with people talking about getting rid of incumbents," Nehr, 58, said Tuesday night. "I was pleased to get a high majority of the vote even though there was three of us.
"To me, it shows that the people in my district want someone who is in tuned with their own interest and they want a uniter and not a divider."
Nehr now faces Tom McKone, 59, in the Nov. 2 General Election. McKone, a Democrat who is chairman of the East Lake Fire District Commission, had no primary challenger.
In the primary campaign, Nehr ruffled the feathers of some party members for refusing to separate himself from Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party and launched an independent campaign for U.S. Senate.
Baker's primary campaign garnered national attention after she suggested building camps to house illegal immigrants until they can be sent back to their homelands.
Demorris A. Lee, Times staff writer
State House District 60
Harrison, Patterson headed to general
Attorney Shawn Harrison, 45, won the Republican primary for the District 60 state House seat.
"I feel relieved that our 18-month campaign for the primary is over," Harrison said Tuesday night as he celebrated with supporters at Wood Fired Pizza in New Tampa. "I have a background in small business and I think people responded to that."
Harrison, who served on the Tampa City Council from 1999 to 2007, will face Democrat Russell Patterson in the general election.
Patterson, 58, easily defeated Christopher Cano, 27, in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
District 60 covers Thonotosassa, Temple Terrace, Lutz and Lake Magdalene. Term limits forced Republican Ed Homan out of the seat.
Janet Zink, Times staff writer
State House District 61
Weatherford breezes to GOP victory
Will Weatherford took another step in his quest to become the 2012 speaker of the House of Representatives by trouncing tea party activist and newcomer Kevin Wright.
Weatherford took the GOP primary with about 80 percent of the vote in the district that includes central and east Pasco and part of New Tampa.
"I'm just honored by the show of support from the community and the district," Weatherford said. "For 31/2 years we've worked for lower taxes and family-friendly issues and to represent the people of the district in the way they should be."
Weatherford, 30, campaigned on a platform that included not raising taxes and supporting an amendment to allow school districts more flexibility on class size. He has raised more than $500,000 toward his re-election. If re-elected, Weatherford is on track to become Pasco's first House speaker since 1893 and the youngest since 1957.
Wright, 55, who owns a T-shirt printing business, focused on the need to find sources of renewable energy and to upgrade highways. He opposed government funding for high-speed rail, and said more should be done to improve roads and other forms of mass transit.
"We were self-funded and got more than 20 percent of the vote," Wright said. "I think that shows there was an interest in my candidacy."
Weatherford faces another first-time candidate in November: Democrat Elena McCullough of Wesley Chapel.
Lisa Buie, Times staff writer