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Ten weeks to sell yourself to voters. Ready. Set. Go!

A special election for state House of Representatives District 38 will be held April 9 unless additional candidates emerge before Feb. 14.
Republican Randall S. (Randy) Maggard. left, and Democrat Kelly Smith, are seeking the state House of Representatives District 38 seat based in east Pasco If no other major party candidate qualifies before noon Feb. 14. The special election will be April 9
Published Jan. 30

Kelly Smith spent 16 months campaigning for a Pasco County commission seat in 2017-18. This time, she may have just 10 weeks.

Smith, 44, of Wesley Chapel is running as a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives seat vacated by Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills. Randy Maggard, 55, of Dade City is running on the Republican side.

Earlier, Democrat, Kathy Lewis of Wesley Chapel announced her candidacy for the special election, but withdrew citing personal reasons, said John Ford, chairman of the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee.

The candidate qualifying period begins at 8 a.m. on Feb. 13 and concludes 28 hours later. Candidates have the choice of paying the $1,781 filing fee or turning in 288 valid signatures of registered voters.

If no new candidates emerge, Maggard and Smith will square off April 9, the same day as Pasco's municipal elections. If another major party candidate joins the race next week, the primary election will be held April 9, and the general election will be June 18.

One of the challenges, Smith said, is simply educating voters that there is a special election.

"That's going to be as big a part of the message as who to vote for,'' she said.

The last special legislative election in Pasco County was the 2013 race to succeed Mike Fasano in west Pasco's House District 36. The general election turnout was less than 20 percent.

Smith previously ran unsuccessfully for the District 2 Pasco County Commission seat held by Republican incumbent Mike Moore. She announced her candidacy in summer 2017 and collected enough signatures to qualify by petition. In that race, Moore outspent Smith by a 12-1 margin.

Smith received 83,859 votes, 40.5 percent of the turnout, which was "more votes than any other Democratic candidate running countywide in Pasco County,'' she said.

Maggard's name has never been on an election ballot, but he is well known in government and political circles. A former chairman of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee, Maggard also chaired the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board. He is vice president of Sonny's Discount Appliances in Dade City.

So far, his campaign has followed the strategy of recently elected state Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O' Lakes, by regularly releasing personal endorsements from other Republican elected officials.

Smith complimented Burgess on his public service, but simultaneously lambasted the GOP.

"For almost 20 years, Florida has been controlled by the Republican Party and elected officials who collectively turned their backs on the daily needs and concerns of working class Floridians,'' she said. "Their irresponsibility has led to inadequate funding for vital community services — high quality public education, access to affordable health care and programs for foster children ... They have failed in their responsibility to enact legislation that protects affordable housing and encourages conservation of our already depleted natural resources.''

During her commission race, Smith championed a $15 hourly wage, blocking the proposed Ridge Road Extension to maintain the Serenova Preserve and was critical of what she called poor land-use decisions that led to crowded roads and schools.

Maggard didn't specify a particular platform plank in his campaign announcement, but said he would "continue to work hard every day to improve the lives of Pasco County's residents, protect and preserve our natural resources and make sure our community is safe and secure.''

Maggard also commended Burgess' service. Gov. Ron DeSantis named Burgess to head the state Department of Veterans Affairs. Burgess, re-elected in November, was just beginning his third term representing House District 38, which encompasses all of eastern Pasco County, including Wesley Chapel and the cities of Dade City and Zephyrhills.

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

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