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  1. Pasco

In this GOP primary, it's the outsider against the insider

Florida House of Representative District 38 Republican candidates David “Mac” McCallister and Randy Maggard
Florida House of Representative District 38 Republican candidates David “Mac” McCallister and Randy Maggard
Published Mar. 29, 2019

DADE CITY — Randy Maggard was born on the Fourth of July.

His home is on Americana Avenue.

Why wouldn't he run for public office, he asks.

Serving the community, Maggard says, was instilled in him by his father — the patriarch and namesake of the family business, Sonny's Discount Appliances, where Maggard is vice president.

So Maggard, a 55-year-old Pasco native, is making his first run for elected public office after serving in an appointed position on the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board and in the elected political role of chairman of the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee.

Maggard and David "Mac'' McCallister are seeking the Republican nomination for the vacant state House of Representatives District 38 seat formerly held by Florida Veterans Affairs chief Danny Burgess. The winner of the April 9 primary will face Democrat Kelly Smith in the June 18 special election.

McCallister, 67, an attorney with an office in Dade City, was born and raised in Miami, but ended up in Pasco County in 1987, following his graduation from Stetson Law School. He now lives in Temple Terrace and will have to move into the district if he is elected.

Living in Pasco for three decades, McCallister said, makes him "practically a pioneer by Florida standards.''

His inspiration wasn't familial, however. It was the White House and the Florida governor's mansion. McCallister said his campaign was motivated by President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. He wears a red "MAGA'' hat during all of his campaign appearances and repeats the rhetoric of "draining the swamp'' in Tallahassee.

Much of the candidates' platforms mirror the party's. They are pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, low-tax Republicans who object to using the academic standards known as Common Core — called the Sunshine State standards in Florida — in public school classrooms.

They differ in their initial legislative priorities.

McCallister said he would continue his push for a bill to protect "veterans and historical monuments and memorials.'' McCallister once lobbied unsuccessfully to include Samuel Pasco — a U.S. Senator, veteran of the Confederate Army and namesake for Pasco County — in the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.

He leads the Judah P. Benjamin Camp #2210 Sons of Confederate Veterans and gained notoriety in 2017 for opposing Hillsborough County's plan to move its Confederate monument. His campaign web site features personal endorsements from neo-Confederates.

Maggard said he would seek to finish work left incomplete by Burgess' resignation, but his focus will be on water issues — a nod to his experience on the water district governing board — and transportation infrastructure.

By late March, the campaign turned negative, with both sides filling voters' mailboxes with campaign flyers that contained misleading or erroneous information.

A McCallister campaign flyer accused Maggard of driving loyal Republicans out of the party, but it cited a 2015 dispute with the West Pasco Republican Club losing its charter. That occurred under former party Chairman James Mathieu. Maggard was re-elected GOP chairman after Mathieu resigned and the club's charter was restored.

"You'll get lies from him 'cause he's got nothing else to run on,'' Maggard told the East Pasco Republican Club during a March 18 forum.

But a third-party electioneering committee sent mail on Maggard's behalf that inaccurately portrayed McCallister as a trial attorney advocating for so-called sanctuary cities. McCallister's law practice focuses on probate and real estate work. A key part of McCallister's platform is his support for prohibiting "sanctuary'' policies and requiring state and local law enforcement to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (The Pasco Sheriff's Office already does so.)

"I'm the outsider here,'' McCallister told the same east Pasco audience, saying he is opposing "people who are trying to buy influence with their endorsements or their contributions.''

A litany of Pasco's prominent Republicans, including Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, Sheriff Chris Nocco and Tax Collector Mike Fasano endorsed Maggard's candidacy. He also is supported by Pasco Commissioners Mike Moore — who sends pro-Maggard tweets — and Ron Oakley, whose sister, Ann Oakley Maggard, is married to the candidate's brother, Dale Maggard.

A concern among the candidates is voter turnout. The 10-week primary campaign included just three joint appearances by McCallister and Maggard, and the election coincides with just one municipal contest in the district — a City Council race in Zephyrhills.

By mid-day on March 29, the day before early voting began, 3,652 ballots had been cast. There are 44,379 Republican voters in the district. Early voting continues until 5 p.m. Saturday, April 6. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, April 9.

House District 38 includes all of Pasco County east of Ehren Cutoff in Land O' Lakes and includes Wesley Chapel and the municipalities of St. Leo, San Antonio, Dade City and Zephyrhills.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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