PLANT CITY — As expected, Republican Lawrence McClure easily won Tuesday's special election for state House District 58 to replace retired Rep. Dan Raulerson.
McClure won 54 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and no-party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin. They vied to represent the Hillsborough County district that stretches from Temple Terrace east through Plant City to the county line.
"I'm humbled to have the support of the voters of District 58," McClure said in a text message. He added, "This is a great responsibility in which I will not take lightly. We have a lot of work to do to keep Florida on track."
McClure said he expects to be sworn in and take office by the start of the 2018 legislative session, which opens Jan. 9. But he'll still be a bit late to the party — House committees have been meeting since September.
Turnout was about 15 percent of the district's 91,603 registered voters, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office. That's 13,938 votes cast, according to preliminary results from all 49 precincts, mail ballots and early voting.
McClure received 7,592 votes. Vazquez was second with 34 percent, or 4,715 votes. Saadaldin's 1,188 votes earned him 9 percent. Zemina had 443 votes, or 3 percent.
The 30-year-old McClure owns an environmental services business in Tampa. He said he got involved in politics partly through his dealings with government regulations and his seat on the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau.
Making his first run for public office, McClure got financial backing from the state House leadership team headed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. McClure took stances generally in line with the House leadership.
District 58 has more registered Democrats than Republicans, 37 percent to 34 percent, but votes reliably Republican. President Donald Trump won it in 2016 by 53-43 percent, a margin greater than his narrow statewide victory, and, Mitt Romney won it by 5 points in 2012.
So by defeating Yvonne Fry in the September Republican primary, McClure paved the way for Tuesday's win.
The primary campaign was marked by an intense barrage of negative mailers against Fry, apparently paid for through a network of independent political committees affiliated with McClure's campaign manager Anthony Pedicini and a Gainesville political consultant, both with ties to GOP legislative leadership. Such committees are often used to mask the identities of those funding political campaigns.
County Democrats failed to enlist former Plant City Mayor John Dicks, who likely would have been their strongest contender for the office, as a candidate.
In the general election campaign, the county Democratic Party backed Vazquez even though it had not always done so in his previous runs for office. The final days of the campaign saw conflicts between Vazquez and the large Muslim community in Temple Terrace, much of which backed Saadaldin.
Contact William March at email@example.com