Less than 24 hours after state Rep. Dan Raulerson announced his resignation, groundwork is being laid for what could be a tough Republican primary to replace him.
One prominent Plant City Republican, businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry, has announced she'll run for the seat. Another, businessman and county Farm Bureau board member Lawrence McClure, is seriously considering a run.
Both represent long-time Plant City families and already have linked up with campaign consultants. Both have been thinking about seeking the Plant City-based House seat after Raulerson reached his term limit in 2020 but are moving up their plans in light of Raulerson's resignation this week, effective Aug. 15.
They're likely to face a tightly compressed schedule for raising money and campaigning.
Pre-session committee meetings for the 2018 legislative session begin in September, and Gov. Rick Scott, who'll set a date for the special election, may seek to have a new representative in place quickly.
Fry said Tuesday she'll file candidacy papers this week.
The daughter of a Plant City strawberry and chicken farming family, she has started several businesses including Lines of Communication, a telecommunications management service, and Fried Egg Productions, a marketing company.
She has a long resume of civic activities, including past chairmanships of the state and county commissions on the status of women and the Plant City Chamber of Commerce; a seat on the Plant City Board of Adjustment; and offices in the PTA and Tampa Tiger Bay Club.
She's a marketing graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has spent most her career in the Tampa area.
Fry, 45, has never run for office before but has been involved in local Republican Party politics, in part because of her long relationship with former State Attorney Mark Ober of Tampa. Ober has been what she calls her "significant other" for several years.
The two share some domestic arrangements, but Fry's residence is in Walden Lakes in Plant City, she said.
She has a son who just graduated from Plant City High School and a daughter at Tomlin Middle School in Plant City.
Fry said the House seat would be "a continuation of my service in the community. I'm one of those people who put my hand up and say I'm here to help."
McClure, 30, who would also be a first-time candidate, said he'll decide on the race by the end of the week.
Originally from Tampa, he's a Plant High School graduate and a partner in Streamline Environmental Inc., a Tampa business that works on petroleum cleanup including oil spills and gas station leaks. He's originally from Tampa and is married to the former Courtney Newsome, daughter of a family with a history of six generations in Plant City.
McClure is working with a well-connected campaign consultant, Tom Piccolo. He's the brother of Fred Piccolo, a top communications aide to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and has also done work for state Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who's in line to become House speaker in 2021.
Sprowls said that's a coincidence and doesn't mean the House GOP leadership is supporting anyone in the primary. McClure said he is connected with Piccolo through mutual friends, not legislative leaders.
McClure said he's considering running because "I'd like to bring my business experience and ties to agriculture to the Legislature."
Before Raulerson's resignation, no-party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam of Plant City had filed to run in 2018 for the House district, which covers northeastern Hillsborough County.
Contact William March at [email protected]