The last time Randy Maggard sought a seat in the state House of Representatives, he was passed over by party bosses who said they wanted new, younger blood in the Republican Party. That was a dozen years ago, and the party’s preferred candidate was a relatively unknown 26-year-old named Will Weatherford.
The last time Kathy Lynn Lewis sought a seat in the Legislature was just two months ago, when the Democrat out-polled powerful incumbent Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, in his home county of Hillsborough, but failed to claim enough votes in Pasco County to win the District 20 state Senate seat in November.
Now, Maggard and Lewis are staring at a potential face-off as the only declared candidates for the state House District 38 seat that is expected to be vacated next week by Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills. Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis tapped Burgess in December to lead the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Maggard, 55, is vice president of Sonny’s Discount Appliances in Dade City, a member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board and a former chairman of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee.
“I think it’s great,’’ said Randy Evans, current Pasco GOP chairman. Calling the east Pasco-based seat a “good, conservative pocket,’’ Evans said he was “hopeful and optimistic that Randy Maggard will win that seat and ... do a great job for Florida.’’
Evans came up short in 2006 when party leaders from Pasco and Hillsborough counties had to select a candidate for the November ballot after then-Rep. Ken Littlefield dropped out of the race to accept an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission. At the time, the party said the choice came down to Weatherford or Evans, with Weatherford winning out and eventually rising to become speaker of the House in 2012. Voters elected Burgess to the seat in 2014 when Weatherford had to leave office because of term limits.
In that regard, Lewis has an advantage. Her name has been on a general election ballot previously. In November, she won 52 percent of the Hillsborough vote in Senate District 10, but collected 43.4 percent, or 32,118 votes, in Pasco.
John Ford, the newly minted chairman of the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee, lauded Lewis’ showing in November.
“She worked hard in Hillsborough to overcome the advantage that Tom Lee had there. He is an incumbent, a long-term incumbent and he lives in Hillsborough. She concentrated some effort there and was successful.
“In Pasco, without much of a ground game, she accumulated 43 percent of the vote. A pretty nice number, and I think she can make up the difference. I think the people on the east side recognize a quality candidate,’’ said Ford.
Lewis, 57, a writer and motivational speaker, is a native of Baltimore and moved to Wesley Chapel 10 years ago. She said last fall that her Senate candidacy was motivated by her difficult, but eventually successful quest to obtain Medicaid benefits for her disabled daughter. During her Senate campaign, Lewis said she wanted to raise the minimum wage, close the gun show loophole on background checks for gun buyers and accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars. She said her platform will remain the same for the House race.
"Health care issue is for everyone, gun violence is the same. It's not specific to Hillsborough County,'' she said.
Both Evans and Ford said they expect the special election to be held in early March so the District 38 seat isn’t vacant for the entire legislative session that begins March 5 and is scheduled to conclude May 3.
Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said a special election, with no primary contest, would cost $180,000, with the state reimbursing Pasco for the cost. There are 40 precincts in the district, and Corley said 21,000 voters in House District 38 have requested mail ballots in past elections.
District 38 covers all of Pasco County east of Ehren Cutoff in Land O’ Lakes and includes Wesley Chapel and the cities of Zephyrhills, Dade City, San Antonio and St. Leo. The district's nearly 113,000 registered voters include 43,442 Republicans, 36,395 Democrats and 32,500 affiliated with neither major party.
Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.