By KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
TAMPA -- Republican State Rep. Sandra Murman on Tuesday took an early and commanding lead in her race for a second term against last-minute Democratic challenger Henry Gill.
Gill, a corporate attorney and former federal prosecutor, jumped into the race only a month ago when the Democratic candidate dropped out.
After spending Election Day campaigning, Murman was optimistic early in the night, as she awaited returns at her Davis Islands home.
"I feel pretty good," said Murman, 50.
As the night wore on, with voter results dribbling in slowly, Murman decided to take a spin in her motorboat with her husband, said her campaign manager, Denise Kuhn.
"It's very slow here, you know, just sitting here, waiting and waiting," Kuhn said.
For the past two years, Murman has been chairwoman of the House Children and Families Committee. She made children's issues her cause in the election.
Gill, 61, said he bought 1,000 signs the past few weeks and campaigned door to door. He spent several hours Tuesday night at Tampa General Hospital with his wife, who is recovering from knee surgery, and other family members.
But by 10:45 p.m., he had returned to his Davis Islands home alone to watch returns on TV.
"Looks like it's going to be a bad night," he said.
Murman supports school vouchers and has sponsored legislation dealing with adopted, abandoned and abused children.
She touts her efforts that helped increase funding for teenage drug education and Hillsborough County teacher salaries.
After lawyer Betsy McCoy Benedict quit the race in September, citing financial difficulties, state Democratic leaders chose Gill from among two other contenders to take over the campaign.
Benedict was thought by Democrats to be a strong candidate, and they acknowledged when she dropped out that a Democratic victory would be tough, given how little time was left before the election.
- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.