Kathryn Starkey was elected Tuesday as the new District 3 county commissioner, filling a seat held for 28 years by her friend Ann Hildebrand.
Starkey, a Republican, easily held off Democratic hopeful Matt Murphy, a project manager for a utility contractor. She was leading with 58 percent of the vote with nearly all precincts counted.
"It was a nice campaign, a civil campaign," Starkey said. "Matt's a great guy, and I'm sure he'll be involved in the county and the community."
Hildebrand, who is retiring from the commission, was first elected in 1984. She endorsed Starkey, citing her record in public service that includes six years as a Pasco County School Board member.
Starkey, 55, cruised to victory in a five-person GOP primary in August, garnering more than twice as many votes as her closest challenger.
Most observers said Starkey and Murphy each ran respectful, low-key campaigns. Both candidates stuck to mostly positive talking points, and they agree on many issues.
Starkey's advantages also included the backing of most of Pasco's political establishment and a wide fundraising lead. Having a well-known family name also gave her a boost in recognition from voters.
Her victory preserves a 5-0 Republican majority on the commission.
She will be sworn in for her first meeting in two weeks, on Nov. 20 in Dade City. Commissioner Ted Schrader is also expected to take over the largely ceremonial role of chairman.
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected]