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Cowin whips challenger after a hard-fought campaign

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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INVERNESS -- State Sen. Anna Cowin scored a strong victory over challenger Everett Kelly in a hotly contested Republican primary.

Now Cowin will face Democrat Leslie Scales, a Marion County School Board member, in the Nov. 7 general election.

The winner in November will represent District 11 in the state Senate. That district includes Citrus County east of County Road 491, as well as all or parts of Lake, Marion, Sumter and Seminole counties.

"It was a difficult campaign," Cowin said Tuesday night. "It was a hard campaign. I think we tried to stay true to the message and true to my issues. We had a good plan and stayed with it."

Although Cowin won the war Tuesday night, she lost the battle of Citrus County, where Kelly took 51 percent of the vote. But she trounced him by a 2-to-1 ratio in Lake County, which is the heart of the district and Cowin's strongest territory.

The Cowin-Kelly battle was contentious from the start and grew downright nasty toward the end.

Term limits kept Kelly, a 20-year-plus veteran of the Florida House of Representatives, from seeking another House term. But he insisted that term limits weren't the reason he decided to challenge Cowin.

"A great number of Republican senators said, "You ain't got a choice. You have to run,' " Kelly explained.

That sentiment stemmed from Cowin's style in Tallahassee, which critics consider controversial and unnecessarily confrontational. Cowin stuck by her guns, even when the Kelly campaign circulated a mail piece that called her "Hurricane Anna."

Kelly, a pharmacist, promised voters he would help secure a system that allowed elderly residents more affordable access to prescription drugs. He also touted his success in defending the environment, especially valuable waterways.

Cowin, meanwhile, reminded voters that she helped pass Gov. Jeb Bush's education reform plan, helped devise the popular tax-free shopping days and also worked to improve Florida's social service agency.

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