Incumbent Rob Wallace appeared to be defeating Will Craig late Tuesday in the Republican primary for the state House District 47 seat.
Wallace said he was pleased by early indications, though a large number of votes remained uncounted.
"The returns are looking fine for me right now," said Wallace, the 44-year-old founder and president of Environmental Engineering Consultants in Tampa. "My campaign troops are optimistic.We've worked hard, so we're just sitting back and watching the results."
Craig, a 31-year-old sales associate for TransWORLD Computer Technology Group in Tampa, said it was too early to predict the outcome.
"We'll see," he said.
The winner will face Carrollwood Democrat Mary Dunkle, a nurse at Hospice of Hillsborough, in the Nov. 5 general election. District 47 includes parts of Carrollwood and Odessa in northwestern Hillsborough County and also includes Tarpon Springs in northern Pinellas County.
Wallace and Craig had a tight finish in 1994, when Craig lost by 24 votes in the September primary. There were three recounts, and Craig took the matter to court. He was granted a rematch but lost by almost 300 votes the second time.
Wallace, a Forest Hills resident, went on to defeat Democrat Brian Rush in the general election.
Wallace has said he wants a chance to build on his freshman term, vowing to continue a push to have school board members elected in the general election, instead of in the runoff in Hillsborough County. He also wants to require the Tampa Port Authority to submit tax hikes to a referendum.
Craig, who also lives in Forest Hills, has been critical of Wallace's legislative performance and touted his experience as an aide to Sen. John Grant. Because Wallace outspent him 3-to-1 two years ago, Craig said he got a jump on the 1996 campaign by walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors as early as summer 1995.
Craig said he would work to ensure that Hillsborough schools got a fair share of the state's tax dollars and abolish unfunded mandates that affect Florida's education system.