Johnnie Byrd, a Plant City Republican, took an early lead Tuesday in his bid to capture State House District 62 and keep it in the hands of the GOP.
Byrd was holding more than a 2-1 advantage over Democrat Troy Surrency, the former police chief of Plant City. But only a fraction of the votes had been tallied.
The District 62 seat had been held by Buddy Johnson, a Republican and owner of a popular local restaurant. Johnson, who had moved into the inner-circle of power on the GOP side of the House, surprised most people in his district when he announced his retirement earlier this year.
Byrd, an attorney and active member of the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, jumped into a four-person Republican primary. He won that primary, and a runoff, against Brandon lawyer and business owner Ronda Storms. Then, he faced off against Surrency.
Both candidates stressed their conservative values in this conservative district. Byrd said his hard work made the difference.
"I did the same thing I did in the primary. Walked door to door. Direct mail. Phone banks. A lot of sign waving," Byrd said.
Surrency said he ran a positive, issue-oriented race.
"We've stuck to the way we wanted to do it," Surrency said. "We tried to be very honest. Tried to stay away from political answers and stick to our true beliefs."
Surrency said he expected to be up a long time Tuesday waiting for the final numbers.
"It will be a long night. We expected that," he said.
Byrd said if his numbers hold, he was looking forward to a serving in what may be a Republican controlled State House.
"It's going to be an exciting, if the Republican Party becomes the majority in the House," Byrd said. "It will be a time when we can try some new alternatives in education and do some meaningful things in the area of public safety."