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Politics

Frishe poised to defeat Democratic opponent

By PAUL SWIDER
Published November 8, 2006


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After pulling an upset in the primary, Republican Jim Frishe rode the wave to victory Tuesday for the state House seat in GOP-heavy District 54.

With a majority of the votes counted, Frishe was holding onto a 6-percentage point lead over Democrat Betsy Valentine. A political newcomer, Valentine has lived in the area only for three years but still kept the race close despite running in a district where there are 10,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

"Thirty-five years of roots in Pinellas County and a lot of Legislative experience had to work to my advantage," Frishe said.

Valentine was also overmatched in money. Frishe, who returns to the House after a 16-year hiatus, raised $160,000 to Valentine's $28,000.

"We've done pretty well, but not enough to put us over the top," said Valentine. "We got a lot of Republican votes."

Frishe has been active in his party and an avid campaign worker for decades. He said this result was closer than expected after many voters chose a straight Democratic ticket out of anger with some in his party.

He also credited Valentine for working hard.

"She built a heck of an organization and challenged us at every corner," Frishe said.

Frishe had been the money underdog in the GOP primary, running against Rod Jones, son of state Sen. Dennis Jones. But despite Jones's $210,000 to $66,000 fundraising advantage, Frishe won.

Valentine had hoped for a similar upset, but in a district that hasn't seen a Democratic contender since 1994, she could not overcome Frishe's political relationships.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com.

[Last modified November 8, 2006, 06:12:08]


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