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Murman holds slim lead over Butler in too-close-to-call race // DISTRICT 56

With about 70 percent of precincts reporting, the race for House District 56 remained too close to call between Republican Bill Butler and Democrat Sandra Murman.

Murman led with about 53 percent of the vote, but both candidates said they would wait until all the ballots were counted before declaring victory or conceding defeat.

"It's never in the bag until the last vote is in, but we're feeling good," Murman said about 10:30 p.m. "We've run a great campaign, and I just feel good about it."

Butler, a 39-year-old marketing executive for Universal Studios Florida, lost the same seat to Democrat Jim Davis in 1994 by about 400 votes.

In the end, Butler said, he lost to Davis by 49.3 percent to 50.7 percent.

"This is the way it was last time," Butler said. "We went to bed, and it was 52 (percent for Davis) to 47 (percent), and when I woke up the next morning, it was about 50/50. One or two precincts can make a big difference."

This time, Butler said, he'll wait up until all the votes are counted.

House District 56 cuts a narrow path from Davis Islands north through Seminole Heights and Carrollwood.

During the campaign, both candidates described themselves as moderates and stressed fiscal responsibility.

Calling himself a "compassionate conservative," Butler focused on education, crime and welfare.

Murman, 46, works as executive director for Project Sigma, a project to build school spirit at the University of South Florida.

As a longtime children's advocate, Murman said, she focused on children's issues, juvenile crime and education.

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