By MICHAEL SANDLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
TAMPA -- Democrat Bob Henriquez was cruising to re-election Tuesday after two years in the Florida House -- and a week-long battle with chicken pox.
Henriquez held a commanding lead over his opponent, Republican Eddy Calcines, gaining a 2-to-1 edge with nearly 80 percent of the precincts counted in District 58.
"I feel very relieved and happy and ready to get back to work," said Henriquez, who became ill a week ago. He stepped out to vote on Tuesday afternoon, his first public appearance in nearly a week.
"I look like hell, but I'm over the sickness," he said.
His apparent victory solidifies his status as a rising figure in the Florida Democratic Party. The urban planner and former head football coach at Tampa Catholic retained his seat after a successful first term in Tallahassee.
The incumbent benefited from a strong reputation passing non-controversial bills with bipartisan support. He also raised nearly 10 times as much money as his opponent.
Henriquez made education the focus of his re-election campaign, proposing a teacher scholarship program to attract more young people to the profession. He also emphasized improving the quality of life for senior citizens and increasing community policing.
Calcines, who runs a neighborhood hair salon, promised to use his business skills in Tallahassee and also campaigned strongly on education issues. With limited contributions, he took to knocking on doors the past 10 weeks hoping to reach 5,000 of the nearly 40,000 homes.
"I feel good about all that has happened," said Calcines. "I've been blessed to meet so many wonderful folks. I feel very special today."
For Henriquez, a burly man and former offensive lineman at Princeton, the illness slowed him down and kept him indoors during the final days of the campaign. But his staff carried his weight.
"I was literally out of commission," said Henriquez. "It makes me feel good that our message was out."