State Sen. Paula Dockery will continue to represent Hernando County's east side in the state Senate, according to preliminary election results.
The 43-year-old Lakeland Republican beat Carol Castagnero, 66, a Lakeland Democrat and retired schoolteacher in a closer than expected race.
Dockery had captured more than 55 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results released Tuesday night. In Hernando County, she got about 57 percent, with nearly all precincts reporting.
Yet, she wasn't declaring victory by 9 Tuesday night because several precincts were still out in Polk, Sumter and Lake counties.
"I feel like we ran a good clean race, and certainly with the presidential ticket at the top, there were going to be a lot of straight party line votes," said Dockery, who watched the poll results from the courthouse in Bartow in Polk County. "Basically I'm very happy and looking forward to a little bit of sleep."
Dockery first ran unopposed for the vacant Senate seat in 2002 and has also spent six years in the state House.
Her platform focused on integrity in government and her work on behalf of environmental legislation, among other issues. She raised more than $165,000 in campaign contributions, so much so that she told people to stop sending her money.
Castagnero is a political newcomer who raised almost no campaign funds outside of the few thousand dollars that came from her own pocket. She refused special interest money.
Castagnero pretty much campaigned on one issue: eliminating the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Dockery was born in Queens, N.Y., but moved to Florida when she was 6 years old. She grew up in Broward County and moved to Lakeland in 1986.
Dockery has worked as a senior underwriter at State Farm Insurance before working in her husband's family business. She is married to businessman C.C. "Doc" Dockery, who largely financed her first run for state office in 1996.
Castagnero was born in Hermine, Pa., and moved to Lakeland in 1988. She taught school in Florida and in Pennsylvania.