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First Republican files for state House seat

(ran PW, PS editions)

John Stewart has watched politics from a distance for years. Now the longtime lawyer _ and soon-to-be empty nester _ plans to hit the campaign trail himself.

Stewart, a Republican from New Port Richey, filed this week to run for the state House of Representatives seat that is being vacated by Heather Fiorentino, who is running for superintendent of Pasco schools.

"I don't have a long political resume . . . but I've always been into it," said Stewart, who earned his undergraduate degree in political science at the University of South Florida. "I just never had time to be a candidate."

But with his youngest son going off to college this fall, the 56-year-old father of three added: "Now the door is open."

Stewart identified health care, education and growth issues as his top concerns.

"I want to also provide the kind of constituent service that hopefully brings a lot of people back into the political process," he said, pointing to the rising number of independent voters who might feel turned off by politics.

An attorney specializing in real estate law, trusts and probate law for 32 years, Stewart ran for Pasco-Pinellas circuit court judge in 1998. He lost the nonpartisan race to now-Circuit Judge Irene Sullivan.

He is a past president of the West Pasco Bar Association and the New Port Richey Rotary Club. He has been married to his wife, Maxine, for 33 years.

District 46 includes much of west Pasco County.

So far, the only other candidate in the race is physical therapist Dee Thomas, a Democrat.

_ Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhallsptimes.com.

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