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Fundraising and name recognition factored into the loss, the challenger says.
By CHASE SQUIRES
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
DADE CITY -- Incumbent Republican state Rep. Ken Littlefield took a huge lead early Tuesday night and never let go, scoring a big victory in his bid to retain the seat that has been in his family since it was created.
Littlefield, 56, took over from his older brother in a special election last year with a victory against Zephyrhills Democrat Larry McLaughlin. The two staged a rematch this year, and despite some aggressive campaigning and fundraising efforts from McLaughlin, the results were similar.
As the night went on Tuesday, Littlefield maintained a 20 percentage point edge throughout in the District 61 race.
From his home Tuesday, Littlefield said he was pleased with the outcome.
"I'm surrounded here by my friends and family, and it's just been a good evening all around," he said. "I've concentrated on serving my district in the past two years, and I think that translated to votes this evening."
McLaughlin, 44, beaten for a second time, said he did not expect to challenge Littlefield again.
Money and name recognition played a role again, he said.
"I don't know what else I could point to," he said. "Obviously, they (Republicans) have got a machine that's working. I think having an incumbent in a majority party played a role."
Beating Littlefield in two years, when he is even more entrenched, will be a formidable task for the challenger.
"This was the opportunity for the Democratic Party to do something," he said.
Throughout the race, Littlefield hammered at the GOP core values of less government and more personal responsibility. The best way to serve his constituents, he said, is to stick with House leadership.
McLaughlin's campaign was outraised about 13-to-1 in funds in the 1999 special election.
This time, he had more money behind him. Although he didn't raise enough to overtake Littlefield's coffers during the summer, he did put together a list of Hillsborough donors, including unions.
McLaughlin thought he could better represent the people of District 61, and he opposed much of what has gone on in Bush's term.
McLaughlin said schools are a key need, and he opposed Gov. Jeb Bush's A+
State House District 61 includes parts of eastern, southern and central Pasco County as well as eastern and northern Hillsborough County.