Republican Amber Mariano had a good excuse for cutting her classes at the University of Central Florida Tuesday — she was winning a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
Mariano, the 21-year-old daughter of Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano, stunned popular Democrat Rep. Amanda Murphy of New Port Richey in Florida House District 36. The margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent — or a 719-vote victory out of 66,939 ballots cast — according to final but unofficial results.
Amber Mariano, of Hudson, said she was up late Monday night, but didn't have a lot of time for last-minute campaigning. She had a paper to finish and an exam to take and then e-mailed both to her professors at UCF where she is a third-year political science student. Tuesday, she cut her four classes, hit several precincts to greet voters and rode the coattails of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to victory. Trump carried Pasco with 58 percent of the vote in a heavy Republican turnout.
"I think Trump really helped me out,'' she said earlier in the day as voters told her they voted for both her and the Republican presidential nominee.
Mariano, who initially filed to run for an Orlando-based House seat, but switched at the filing deadline in June, focused her campaign on higher education and on west Pasco's flooding problems. Her campaign literature was aimed directly at the GOP's base support and featured endorsements from Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and her own support for Trump's candidacy.
Murphy, 46, enjoyed broad support across party lines and her own campaign touted the endorsement of Republican Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Murphy's predecessor in the state House District 36 seat. He recorded four automated telephone calls on her behalf urging non-partisan voters to support Murphy's candidacy.
"We had known when we started it could be the perfect storm,'' Murphy said after the results became final. "She now will be the youngest House member and that's kind of cool for Pasco.''