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Heller the winner over Cappelli

The race was considered one of the most competitive House elections in Florida.

Published November 8, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Democrat Bill Heller tapped into connections made during 15 years of community service to win House District 52 Tuesday, despite Republican Angelo Cappelli's massive financial advantage in the race.

Heller, a former University of South Florida St. Petersburg dean kept a couple steps ahead of Cappelli on Tuesday night as election returns showed him with an 8-point lead. The Republican-leaning district was considered one of the most competitive House races in the state, a must-win for Democrats struggling to retain relevancy in Florida.

Cappelli, a SunTrust bank adviser, had twice the cash flow of Heller, and the Republican Party of Florida sent out a number of ads on his behalf, including one that called Heller "a nutty professor."

But Heller's popularity became evident when even Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist wouldn't take sides in the race.

"The people who I worked with in the community really showed their appreciation, and I also think they showed appreciation of somebody who ran a high-level campaign," said Heller, 71, who chairs the Bayfront Medical Center board.

"I would never do anything to depict Angelo in a bad way because he has been a friend of mine and he will remain a friend of mine."

Cappelli conceded after 10 p.m., saying he would support Heller.

"I think the voters made it very clear that the Republican Party needs to change direction, and I think they made their voice heard not only in Florida but around the country," said Cappelli, 37, chair of the St. Anthony's Hospital Foundation board.

House District 52 includes northern St. Petersburg and portions of Largo, Clearwater and unincorporated Pinellas County.

[Last modified November 8, 2006, 06:11:43]

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