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THE LEGISLATURE // Cowin, Lamb appear headed for GOP runoff

In legislative battles involving Citrus and Hernando counties, the Republican Party on Tuesday had one candidate move to the forefront and two others prepare for a possible runoff.

With more than half the precincts reporting, Nancy Argenziano was pulling away in the battle for state House of Representatives District 43, which covers all of Citrus, parts of northern Hernando and a sliver of Marion. Her opponent was R. D. "Skip" Steighner.

Meanwhile, Anna Cowin and Hope Lamb appeared headed for an Oct. 1 runoff in the battle for state Senate District 11. Neither candidate appeared likely to take more than 50 percent of the vote in the five-person primary.

Argenziano, 41, lives in northwest Citrus County and has worked in recent years to protect water resources. She advocates a strict "local sources first" policy that, she hopes, would prevent thirsty southern counties from draining Citrus lakes and wetlands.

Argenziano will take on Democratic incumbent Helen Spivey in the Nov. 5 general election.

The Senate race was a bit more complicated.

The district includes eastern Citrus and all or parts of Lake, Marion, Sumter and Seminole counties. Only one candidate, Chester White Sr., had local ties.

With more than half the precincts reporting, Cowin was at the top with Lamb a close second. Al Cone was a distant third, with Gary Siegel and Chester J. White Sr. bringing up the rear.

This battle got rough down the stretch, with Cowin mailing a brochure chiding Cone for accepting money from Florida trial lawyers and accusing him of underplaying his role as one of the state's eminent lawyers in malpractice and personal injury.

Cone, in turn, called Cowin's tactics "deplorable" and quickly mailed out a letter that discounted her claims. He said he is proud to accept his colleagues' money.

Lamb is a Lake County nursery owner who wants to cut down on government intrusion that she says makes it difficult for small businesses to prosper.

Siegel is a lawyer and former state senator, while White is a former Citrus County commissioner who made his fortune building up a Stanley Steemer carpet cleaning franchise.

The eventual winner will take on Democrat Charles Dean, now Citrus County sheriff, in the general election. The incumbent, Karen Johnson, resigned to run for school superintendent in Citrus County.