Florida House: Ronda Storms’ comeback ends in GOP primary

Wicker, a relative political newcomer, defeated Storms, the former Hillsborough County commissioner and state senator.
Ronda Storms called  Joe Wicker to concede their race in the District 59 State House Republican primary.
Ronda Storms called Joe Wicker to concede their race in the District 59 State House Republican primary.
Published Aug. 29, 2018|Updated Aug. 29, 2018

Republican candidate Joe Wicker said he received a concession call about 9 p.m. from opponent Ronda Storms in the District 59 State House Republican primary.

Wicker chalked his victory up to hard work and voters wanting a fresh face.

"The community had a desire to move forward and put some common-sense business people in office to bring in fresh ideas and new leadership into our state government," he said. "I think people wanted to shake things up."

Voters, he said, "wanted to see outsiders, business people with real-world experience."

"We found the voters that had never been talked to by a candidate before," he said. "That had a huge effect."

The race to represent a district that encompasses most of Brandon and parts of Bloomingdale, Riverview, Valrico, Dover, Palm River and Clair-Mel City, pitted Wicker, 40, an Army veteran and relative political newcomer versus Storms, 52, a former state senator and Hillsborough County commissioner.

As an early entrant, Wicker grabbed a number of important endorsements, starting with Ross Spano. Wicker unsuccessfully challenged Spano in 2012 in his only prior run for office. But about a month ago, Spano withdrew his endorsement, citing the entry of Storms into the race.

Wicker picked up the backing of key GOP leaders like county commissioners Al Higginbotham and Stacy White. And he has received endorsements from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Realtors PAC and the Tampa Bay Times.

With more than $63,000 and 143 contributions, Wicker raised more than three times as much money as Storms as of Aug. 16. Storms collected almost $18,000 in 74 contributions.

During the campaign, Storms acknowledged that Wicker was the choice of the Republican leaders even before she got into the race, but she entered because so many people were asking for help with issues like flooding and crime.

Storms served two terms as a county commissioner, 1998-2006, and served in the Senate beginning in 2006 before leaving midway through her second term to run unsuccessfully for property appraiser.

During her time in office, representing conservative districts centered in east Hillsborough, she drew attention for her stands on moral issues. She pushed through a policy barring the county from recognizing gay pride events.

Tonight, Storms said she called Wicker to congratulate him on his victory.

"We ran a really good race," Storms said. "We had nothing, and people were giving us gifts of stamps.  It was a really good experience. It was not the outcome I hoped for, but I really feel blessed."

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