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Safley bests newcomer for a fifth term in House // DISTRICT 48

Incumbent Republican R.Z. "Sandy" Safley appeared Tuesday to have handily won a fifth term representing state House District 48.

"We're really pleased with the results," Safley said from Tallahassee, where he already was planning strategy with senior Republican House leaders.

"Right now, it would appear that we're going to have _ for the first time since the Reconstruction _ a Republican majority in the House," said Safley, 50, who lives in Clearwater and owns a real estate consulting firm, the Safley Group.

District 48 covers much of north Pinellas and part of northwest Hillsborough County.

Safley's 25-year-old challenger, Democrat Kevin Mulford of Palm Harbor, said he was not disappointed with the election results, which late Tuesday showed him losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

"From the get-go, my campaign has been about getting people involved," Mulford said. "Win or lose, we've done that."

About 10:30 p.m., Mulford called and congratulated Safley. The payroll and billing supervisor for Nurses PRN, a Clearwater home health care company, Mulford had targeted young voters, but was outspent and outnumbered in the GOP-dominated district.

The two men had run a polite race that was free of controversy. Mulford at one point was critical of Safley for not being more visible in the district, calling him a "stealth legislator," a charge that Safely denied.

Safley ran the same kind of a campaign that has worked for him in the past, stressing his record on education, crime and the environment. First elected in 1988, Safley ran unopposed in 1990 and 1994 and won by wide margins in 1988 and 1992.