Former Republican lawmaker Nancy Argenziano was foiled this year in her attempt to run for Congress as a Democrat.
But now running as an independent for a state House seat in Citrus and Hernando counties, the outspoken -- and often controversial -- Argenziano has received the backing of the Florida Democratic Party as it tries to knock out a Republican incumbent.
The party's somewhat-unusual support of Argenziano came after Democrat Lynn Thomas Dostal withdrew from the House District 34 race just days after winning the Aug. 14 primary. Dostal's move cleared the way for a one-on-one race between Argenziano and Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, and eliminated the possibility that Smith would face a divided opposition that could help him more easily win re-election.
Argenziano said Monday she is "very grateful and proud" to have the support and said it shows the Democratic Party knows she would be fair if elected. She said she has always been independent, including sometimes crossing Republican leaders while serving in the House and Senate from 1996 to 2007, when former Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to the state Public Service Commission.
"I don't want the extremes of either party,'' Argenziano said. "That's why I'm an independent."
Dostal, a Homosassa resident who won nearly 72 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, notified the state Aug. 17 that he was withdrawing from the race. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Dostal said Argenziano "needs a clear field to beat Mr. Smith."
The Democratic Party did not replace Dostal on the ballot and supported Argenziano.
"Nancy Argenziano has been a strong, independent voice for consumers and Florida's middle-class families, while her opponent is a Tea Party extremist who supports the same failed policies which have moved our state in the wrong direction,'' party executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a prepared statement.
Smith, who did not immediately return a phone message left at his office Monday, was elected to the House in 2010 and became best known for sponsoring legislation aimed at requiring drug testing for state employees and welfare recipients. His campaign website gives a glimpse of his conservative positions on other issues.
"As always, I will continue to fight against higher taxes and job-killing regulations,'' Smith, a retired member of the U.S. Army, says on the site.
Argenziano, who represented the Citrus and Hernando areas in the House and Senate, tried to run this year as a Democrat for a U.S. House seat in North Florida held by Republican Steve Southerland. But she dropped her bid after a judge ruled that she did not change her party registration early enough to run as a Democrat.
While she is well-known in the legislative district, Argenziano faces a huge financial disadvantage as she runs against Smith. As of Aug. 9, the latest figures available, Smith had raised $100,722, while Argenziano had raised $5,395. Argenziano said she has not received financial support from the Democratic Party.