House races to watch in Tampa Bay, Nature Coast

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A few days out from Election Day there are several House races that continue to look competitive in the Tampa Bay and Nature Coast areas as a flurry of last-minute ads and sometimes nasty campaign activity hit in the homestretch.

HOUSE DISTRICT 34: This race pits independent candidate Nancy Argenziano, a former Republican state representative and senator from the region, against Republican incumbent Jimmie Smith, who was elected in 2010.

Despite having raised only $27,000, Argenziano has drawn the attention of the RPOF, which through Oct. 17 has pumped nearly $100,000 into Smith’s campaign. Overall, Smith has received more than $220,000 in direct contributions to his re-election bid. Argenziano has raised less than $28,000.

The Citrus County-based district is a Republican stronghold – in 2008, McCain won by 15 percentage point margin — but has in the past elected individualists and non-conformists, including Argenziano, who represented the region from 1996 to 2002 in the House and spent another five years in the Senate.

HOUSE DISTRICT 68: Former Republican lawmaker Frank Farkas takes on Democrat Dwight Dudley, a political newcomer, for the Pinellas County district that includes portions of downtown St. Pete. Dudley has attacked Farkas on his votes while in the House to allow Progress Energy to pass on nuclear costs to customers. Farkas has returned the favor, hammering away in recent weeks at Dudley’s legal representation of felons in his law practice.

The district leans Democrat, with voters in 2008 choosing Obama over McCain by a 9.9 point margin.

Through Oct. 12, the Florida Democratic Party has pumped in more than $53,000 directly into the campaign. The Republican Party of Florida, put nearly $59,000 into the Farkas campaign during the same period.

HOUSE DISTRICT 69: Another open seat pits Republican Kathleen Peters against Democrat Josh Shulman for “the beaches” district of Pinellas County, a western track that takes in all of Gulf Port.

Peters has significantly outraised Shulman. Through Oct. 12, Peters’ campaign collected $128,580, more than double the $57,847 collected by Shulman.

She also appears to be getting more help from her political party. Through Oct. 17, the RPOF had invested more than $51,000 in her campaign.

Shulman has received less enthusiastic support during the period, netting $23,000 from the state Democratic Party.

The performance numbers, however, would appear to favor Shulman. Two years ago, the district chose Democrat Alex Sink over Rick Scott by a 4.2 point margin, a gap roughly equal to the presidential vote in 2008, when voters picked Obama over McCain.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.