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Florida Senate 10: Wilton Simpson defeats challenger Michael Cottrell

SCOTT KEELER    |  TIMES
 Florida Senator Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, during a meeting of the Florida Senate Finance and Tax Committee, Monday, 1/11/16 at the Florida Capitol. FOR FILE.
SCOTT KEELER | TIMES Florida Senator Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, during a meeting of the Florida Senate Finance and Tax Committee, Monday, 1/11/16 at the Florida Capitol. FOR FILE.
Published Nov. 7, 2018|Updated Nov. 7, 2018

The Latest:

• With all but a handful of mail ballots counted, incumbent Republican Wilton Simpson soundly defeated Democrat Michael Cottrell in his final reelection bid.
• District 10 represents much of Pasco and all of Hernando and Citrus counties.
• Click  for the latest election results from across the Tampa area and Florida.

Incumbent state Sen. Wilton Simpson handily held off Democratic challenger Michael Cottrell in his first competitive election since joining the Senate in 2012.

Simpson held a solid 2-to-1 lead with nearly all the results in Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties completed.

Simpson, the Senate majority leader, was visiting other districts in his effort to maintain Republican control of the chamber he will lead in 2020.

"We're just grateful to our constituents for showing up and voting and showing confidence in us," said Simpson, who had not faced a challenger in his three previous election bids.

He anticipated positive outcomes across the state.

"Absolutely," he said. "We've got great candidates and great returns coming in for us."

Simpson, who owns a Pasco County egg farm and environmental cleanup firm, is one of the Senate's wealthiest members. Known primarily for his behind-the-scenes influence, he is slated to become the chamber president in 2020.

Cottrell, a Hernando County teacher who worked for Department of Defense schools, anticipated an uphill battle for the District 10 seat, which represents much of Pasco and all of Hernando and Citrus counties.

He entered the race at the last minute, because he contended that voters deserve a choice. But he had little financial support, and spent much of the early campaign season fighting off cancer.

Simpson, by contrast, had hundreds of thousands of dollars in his campaign account and his political action account. And he said he would run hard, noting his name recognition wasn't solid because he hadn't actively campaigned in the past.

Cottrell said he had contemplated offering token opposition. As pressure mounted in some circles to get out of the race, he decided to take the campaign more seriously.

The two candidates could not have differed more on key issues.

Simpson called for easing access to concealed-carry permits, while Cottrell said it should be harder to own guns in Florida.

Simpson praised the state's school accountability and choice programs. Cottrell criticized the Legislature for underfunding education and putting too much money into non-district schools such as charters.

They did not share similar views on health care, the environment or other topics, either.

In the heavily Republican district, Simpson's positions were considered winners from the outset.

Simpson spent much of Tuesday in other Senate districts, supporting Republican candidates seeking to maintain a majority in the 40-member chamber. As majority leader, Simpson held the responsibility for the GOP Senate campaign strategy.

In the upcoming session, he has said he intends to make foster care and adoption reform a priority.

For national and statewide election results check out The Buzz

For local election results check out the Bay Buzz

For school board election results check out The Gradebook.

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