BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
With overflowing campaign coffers and overwhelming GOP support, the incumbent coasts to victory.
State Sen. Mike Fasano swept aside challenger Steve Mattingly on Tuesday to earn a return trip to Tallahassee.
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, held a commanding 2-1 lead over Mattingly Tuesday evening, with about 93 percent of the precincts reporting. The seat in District 11 covers north Pinellas and the western parts of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
"We're just honored to be able to serve another four years for people in four counties we represent," Fasano, 46, said from his victory party at Spartan Manor in New Port Richey.
Fasano originally won the Senate seat two years ago after spending eight years in the state House of Representatives.
This year's race was a political mismatch: Fasano is a veteran legislator with strong GOP backing and overflowing campaign coffers, including $202,578 cash and $47,982 in-kind contributions. Mattingly is a retired autoworker who ran on a $4,410 shoestring budget, without any support from the state Democratic Party.
"If I could have gotten my message out to the people and had more money and the party hadn't shirked me the way it did, I probably could have done better," said Mattingly, 59, who lives in the Spring Hill area just south of the Pasco-Hernando county line.
Fasano praised his opponent as a "gentleman."
"Every challenger should be someone like Steve Mattingly," Fasano said. "He talks about the issues, and he forces me and the incumbents and the other challengers to step up to the plate and discuss the issues."
Although the two differed on education, health care and taxes, both emphasized constituent service. Mattingly promised to hold town hall meetings to gather constituents' concerns.
Fasano touted his practice of personally responding to constituents' calls, and pointed to a couple of his constituent-driven bills: One measure created an ombudsman for homeowners with sinkholes, while another established a Pasco panel to handle complaints on a local utility.
The Senate term lasts four years and pays $29,916 a year.