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Culp eases ahead in State House District 57 race

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002

TAMPA -- Faye Culp took a big step toward a political comeback Tuesday, easing ahead of her two opponents in the Republican race for House District 57.

"We are all great," Culp said to her supporters as they cheered at campaign headquarters on Neptune Street. "We start again early (this) morning. We'll be in here planning and strategizing."

With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, Culp, who held the seat between 1994 and 1998, held a comfortable lead over Dr. Marcos Lorenzo and legislative aide Jim Johnson. She would face Democrat Scott Farrell and Libertarian Tyson Richmond in the November general election.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Lorenzo said from his post-election party at Malio's Restaurant on S Dale Mabry Highway. But, he added, "We'll move forward and support the Republican candidate and defeat the Democrat."

District 57 includes South Tampa and Town 'N Country.

None of the candidates said the extended polling hours affected the outcome -- at least not in their race.

"If anybody goes to the polls (late), it will be Democrats," Johnson said before polls closed at 9 p.m.

Tuesday's winner hopes to replace Chris Hart IV, a one-term Republican who stepped down to spend more time with his family.

Culp, who called it quits in 1998 to run for education commissioner, had an edge in name recognition. But Lorenzo, making his first run for elected office, raised four times as much money.

Until last week, the race was quiet, with all three candidates echoing each other on major issues. But it got ugly fast.

First, a group with ties to lawyers slammed Lorenzo in a mass mailing, accusing him of injuring a former patient -- a charge the patient denied. Then a group linked to doctors dropped a negative flier on Culp, calling attention to her votes on class size and abortion.

Both candidates strongly condemned the attack ads and denied they had anything to do with them.

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