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Kathleen Peters Faces Major GOP Threat in Leo Govoni

February 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

After losing out to David Jolly, Kathleen Peters should not expect an easy 2014 as she turns to defending her Florida House seat.

Despite not even spending a year in Tallahassee, with the support of Jack Latvala, Peters ran for the Republican nomination in the special congressional election called after Bill Youngs death. Primary rival David Jolly went after Peters conservative credentials from the start and did a good job of painting her as too liberal for many Republican voters and questioning her position on abortion.

Jolly was the favorite, to be sure, but his final margin of victory was impressive. When the smoke cleared, Jolly had 45 percent while Peters took 31 percent. This marked Jollys first run for office while Peters served on the South Pasadena City Commission and served as mayor before she headed to Tallahassee in 2012.

Peters now has to contend with running again for her Florida House seat. Its clear she was leaving herself the option of running for a second term even in the midst of her congressional bid. In the last two months of 2012, Peters raised almost $12,900 for her state House campaign and spent $1,125. So far, since filing to run last January through the end of the year, Peters has raised almost $52,250 and spent around $1,500 of it.

It looks like Peters will need a healthy war chest in 2014. Back in December, during Peters congressional campaign, Leo Govoni filed to run for the seat as a Republican. Govoni has an impressive background he brings to the mix, leading Boston Assett Management in Clearwater and he is active in the community. Govonis December haul certainly opened some eyes. In that month, he raised $50,815 and spent only $116.

Govoni shows no signs of slowing down even after Peters lost the primary. Talking to Saint PetersBlog after Jollys win, Govoni said he raised $20,000 more during January and was not talking about getting out of the primary even with Peters back in the mix.

In his statement to Saint PetersBlog, Govoni also stressed his conservatism and providing leadership in Tallahassee. While not a direct attack against Peters by any means, its clear that Govoni will have no problems running to her right. A similiar strategy worked for Jolly, after all.

No Democrats have lined up to run yet but it is a swing district and they could have the wind at their back if Alex Sink beats Jolly come March. While his fundraising has been underwhelming, Randy Taylor is running as the Libertarian in the race and he has deep ties to the area. Still, if Libertarian Lucas Overby does well in the congressional contest, Taylor stands to benefit.

For the moment, though, the focus in this race remains on the Republican side as Peters and Govoni are set to clash in one of the most competitive legislative primaries in the state come August.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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