Plant City Republican Rich Glorioso led early results in the race to replace outgoing state Rep. Johnnie Byrd, who was House speaker.
With slightly less than half the precincts counted, Byrd's apparent successor in District 62 was a former two-term Plant City commissioner and retired Air Force colonel. Glorioso campaigned on traditional Republican themes of less government and lower taxes. He wants the state to create a five-year budget.
In recent years, Republicans have enjoyed control of the seat. When term limits forced out Byrd this year, three Republicans vied for the party's nomination in a bitter primary battle.
"We learned a lot in the primary, and it's paid off in how we attacked the general" election, said Glorioso, 60, who has lived in Plant City for about 10 years. As results trickled in, Glorioso held a comfortable lead over Democrat Ashley Smith, 59, a retired public school administrator living in Valrico.
"Until the end, I'm always optimistic," Smith said.
Libertarian James C. Clifford, 53, of Brandon was trailing far behind in a district that runs from the suburbs of Brandon and Valrico to Plant City and edges into Pasco County. "There's always '06," Clifford said.