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Times columnist Ernest Hooper offers his analysis of key races for the Aug. 24 primary.

These are not endorsements.

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State House, District 56

Two years ago, most people viewed Rachel Burgin as a baby-faced, inexperienced official who would be in over her head in Tallahassee after gaining the seat amid controversy. She's still got the baby face, but Burgin acquitted herself fairly well and, more importantly, gained the trust of the state GOP.

This makes her a formidable opponent for newcomer Marc Johnson, a Lithia dentist. But Burgin has to be careful not to stir up anti-incumbent sentiments. Her campaign engineered a cyber trick to undermine Johnson last week, but it quickly backfired and they took down a bogus website,, that directed voters to Burgin's site.

Such gamesmanship isn't necessary. If Burgin takes the high road to Tallahassee, she should win the primary and defeat Democrat David Chalela and Lewis Laricchia, who has no party affiliation, in November.

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State House District 67

Most of the campaigning for this seat has occurred in Manatee and Sarasota counties, which is too bad. All three Republican candidates, J.J. Guccione, Robert McCann and Greg Steube, hail from Bradenton and the bulk of the residents in this heavily populated district are south of Hillsborough.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that all three Republicans, plus Democrat Z.J. Hafeez, have made this one of the most expensive House races in the state, with the four candidates raising a combined $400,000. Steube appears to have an edge because his father is Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.But for now, the primary race may be too close to call.

The winner faces Hafeez, a lawyer and New College graduate who will try to parlay the fact that he's an Apollo Beach native into a big South Shore advantage.