HD 6 preview: A study of strategies in N. Florida GOP primary

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The race for the Florida House of Representatives District 6 is a study of strategies. Four Republicans are vying for the seat that launched the careers of Dempsey Barron and former House Speaker Allan Bense. One candidate has cultivated the political establishment, another grass roots and a third, a career-military wife, a network of veterans.

The district takes in much of Bay County and is anchored by Panama City. It is a GOP stronghold that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the mid-1990s. Republicans hold a 49 percent to 31 percent advantage over Democrats in voter registration. Gov. Rick Scott received 66 percent of the vote in 2010; President Barack Obama got only 28 percent in 2012.

Those competing to succeed term-limited Rep. Jimmy Patronis have combined to raise more than $312,000 with more than half the amount going to the campaign of 24-year-old Jay Trumbull.

Trumbull is the co-owner of six Culligan franchises started by his grandfather and has collected $188,945 on nearly 400 campaign contributions. Almost $31,000 of that came from Tallahassee addresses, according to campaign finance documents, including $500 from former Speaker Dean Cannon and another $500 from Cannon’s lobbying firm Capital Insight.

Reps. Dennis Baxley, Matt Gaetz, Clay Ingram and Halsey Beshears have helped Trumbull raise money.

Trumbull promises to bring a business owner’s perspective to policy-making and to hold a “tight rein” on government. The campaign has hired Brett Doster’s Front Line Strategies of Tallahassee. Doster is also working with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s campaign. His Aug. 1 finance report shows that Trumbull has $70,482 on hand.

While Trumbull has cultivated support among the political establishment, Thelma Rohan, 68, is working the rank and file. A Bay County state committeewoman and precinct leader, Ms. Rohan lists 230 contributions on her campaign finance reports and all but a single Mississippi donation appear to be from the district.

Ms. Rohan has raised $97,807 in contributions and loans.

She is a former Bay County School Board member and is opposed to Common Core educational standards. Ms. Rohan is running on a “three E” platform — education, the economy and the environment. She wants to return the “power of decision-making” to the local level.

Ms. Rohan has $42,500 on hand and is working with Jamestown Associates, a Republican consulting firm that won industry awards for its work on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s 2009 campaign.

A former county chair for Gov. Rick Scott’s gubernatorial campaign has raised $101,200 for the Republican primary battle. Melissa Hagan is a self-described “20-year military spouse” and has tapped into a network of veterans to raise money.

Her list of contributors includes addresses from Arizona, Virginia, California and Pensacola. And of the 321 contributions listed on campaign finance reports, 39 appear to be from Ms. Hagan herself, 13 from military officers and 73 from pilots.

Ms. Hagan pledged to support no “de facto taxes or fees” and to push back “against mandates from Washington.”

Ms. Hagan has $44,815 on hand and has hired Strategic Image Management, a Tampa firm that has worked with the state party and Sens. Bill Galvano and Anitere Flores and Rep. Gayle Harrell.

The fourth candidate also wants to stand against Washington meddling in local affairs.  Norman Ray Bishop, 24, has libertarian leanings and once worked as a U.S. House Finance Committee staffer.

Bishop’s campaign stumbled in January when the Florida Highway Patrol charged him with a DUI. Bishop took a “constitutional” approach to the encounter, refused to take a Breathalyzer test and had his license suspended for a year.

Bishop has raised $12,725 on 33 contributions and has $2,000 on hand.

The winner of the Republican primary faces a November challenge from write-in candidate Jerry Wyche. Wyche reports only $300 in campaign contributions.

The Democratic candidate, Ryan Jack Singleton, conceded during a candidate’s forum in June that he couldn’t compete financially and didn’t take any further questions.