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Plant City Observer Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 9 months ago

McClure edges Fry in special election primary

Lawrence McClure secured the republican nomination for the vacant District 58 seat following Tuesday’s primary
by: Daniel Figueroa IV Staff Writer

The signs could be seen along nearly every Plant City road for almost two months now: “Yvonne Fry for State House.”

Yvonne Fry, the Plant City native and community leader who led a brief, but whirlwind campaign to take up the vacant Florida House District 58 seat, was edged out by newcomer Lawrence McClure in Tuesday’s GOP primary. McClure, a South Tampa native and current Dover resident, won by fewer than 700 votes, accounting for nearly 55% of the vote against Fry’s 45%.

Just under 21% of registered republicans, 6,615 of the district’s 31,671, voted in the primary, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections’s unofficial results. All 49 precincts have reported results, including mail-in ballots and early voting. The results, however, do not include provisional or 10-day overseas ballots.

“We lost tonight in spite of a valiant campaign with a solid message of experience and demonstrated commitment to our community along with an incredible work ethic and integrity,” Fry wrote in a Facebook post. “I will sleep well tonight having earned the respect of those who value it in the first place. I will continue to serve our community that I cherish so much. I will be brave and bold in challenging and pushing us all to be better, to do better.”

Fry’s campaign had secured some high-profile endorsements including the recently retired District 58 Rep. Dan Raulerson, former Gov. Bob Martinez, Attorney General Pam Bondi (whose native Temple Terrace makes up a large portion of the district) and countless business and community leaders in Plant City, including the whole of the city commission.

“Thank you for the opportunity to have sought public office,” Fry’s post continued. “My tremendous gains are the deep relationships and the greater understanding of our constitute’s (sic) struggles and needs.”

The race was brief. Raulerson announced he’d be vacating his seat due to health issues in late July. Within a week, the two republican candidates had filed to run in a special election. On Aug. 1, Gov. Rick Scott set the primary date for Oct. 10, giving candidates barely two months to put together campaigns.

In an address to the Plant City Republican Women Federated club in August, political consultant Andrew Taylor said candidates usually plan for state house races a year or more in advance.

Though brief, the campaign was not without its controversies.

Towrd the end of the race, District 58 voters received mailers on an almost daily basis attacking Fry. Some mailers called Fry, who ran as a conservative, a liberal and questioned her business relationships and commitment to republican values.

Fry had vehemently denied such claims to various media outlets and told reporters she was promised a clean campaign. McClure Wednesday said he was not involved in the mailers and had no knowledge of them.

Victory, he said, was based on messaging.

“We felt good,” McClure said.  “We knew that we had a good message that was resonating with people. What happened last night was a testament to the family and friends that we bought in. We were nervously competent. It was good to get a result that we were feeling throughout the entire campaign.”

Mailers also went out against McClure, accusing him of being tied to the special interest of GOP establishment in Tallahassee, including Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran. They also questioned his voting record, showing he had only voted in general elections and not primaries.

McClure said he didn’t think the negative mailers impacted the race.

“I think we connected pretty well last night,” McClure said. “Folks in the district spoke for themselves. All the other stuff is just really not relevant. The voters turned out yesterday.”

Despite democrats having a slight edge in registered district 58 voters, the district historically leans republican.

McClure will face democrat Jose Vazquez, libertarian Bryan Zemina, and Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin, running with no party, in the Dec. 19 general election.

If he wins, McClure said he will continue to focus on the conservative principles he ran his primary campaign on, including reducing government redundancies and returning tax payer dollars to their pockets.

Fry and her campaign consultant Brock Mikosky did not reply to requests for comments.

Daniel Figueroa IV is a Staff Writer at the Plant City Times & Observer. He has been covering Plant City since 2017. Previously, he was the politics and veteran affairs reporter at the Ledger of Lakeland. He probably wants to ride motorcycles and trade books with...

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