U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman was cruising toward a third term, with Republican challenger Dave Gentry lagging far behind.
The 5th Congressional District includes Citrus, Hernando, part of Pasco and all or part of four other counties. With late returns still coming in, Thurman had won or was leading big in all seven counties.
"I've shown that there's a future that I should be a part of. I feel the electorate rejected, overwhelmingly, sleaziness. It didn't work. I'm really proud of my constituents for seeing through that," Thurman said from her campaign headquarters in Inverness.
She was referring, among other things, to a lawsuit Gentry filed against her alleging that a clandestine supporter burglarized Gentry's campaign office. Thurman denied the claim.
Thurman, 45, served 10 years in the Florida Senate and also was a Dunnellon City Council member before voters sent her to Congress in 1992.
During this past term in Washington, she helped rewrite the formula the federal government uses to dole out money for veterans facilities _ resulting in as much as $175-million more for Florida.
Thurman supported the controversial welfare reform bill signed by President Clinton and the line-item veto. She also has fought to increase Florida's reimbursement for Medicare spending and the cost associated with illegal immigration.
Beyond that, Thurman has played a prominent role in committee investigations of the White House travel office scandal and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Thurman said she would continue those battles and keep working on the region's water woes.
Gentry, 37, supported a $200-billion plus tax cut, a 50 percent tax cut in the capital gains tax and a complete revamping of the federal tax code. He also advocates a block-grant system for law enforcement, welfare and education programs.
He speaks thoughtfully about the rising number of births out of wedlock and says a continuation will lead to increasing crime and poverty. He also supported a significant cut in aid the United States provides to other countries.
Gentry is a former high school teacher and graduate student at the University of Florida, where he helped found an anti-political correctness group called the First Amendment Coalition.
He also operates a resume service and published several issues of a lurid crime magazine called National Crime Monthly.
During the campaign, Gentry chided Thurman for her reliance on more than $250,000 in special-interest contributions. The Republican did not accept such money.
Thurman, in turn, accused Gentry of using highly partisan information to discredit her.