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Holly Merrill Raschein in Firm Command in Swing House District

April 2, 2014 - 6:00pm
As she gears up to run for a second term, Holly Merrill Raschein is in the strange but envious position of holding a huge advantage despite representing a swing district in the Florida House.

Raschein represents part of Miami-Dade and all of Monroe County, her district swinging through the Keys. This should be a battleground district as Republicans and Democrats run close in terms of registered voters here. Rascheins predecessor was Democrat stalwart Ron Saunders and the area is represented in the Florida Senate by liberal Dwight Bullard. Generally, Raschein has been successful in portraying herself as a moderate Republican. Its a strategy thats worked well for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who represents the area in Congress.

In 2012, Raschein didnt have the easiest path to the House. She ran over old Saunders foe Morgan McPherson in the primary and faced Democrat Ian Whitney in the general. Raschein beat McPherson by less than 5 percent, when all was said and done, despite outspending him by a 3:1 margin.

In her first term in Tallahassee, Raschein has won attention with her work on agriculture issues. Sitting on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, Raschein was named legislator of the year by the Florida Farm Bureau in 2013. Not a bad accomplishment for a freshman.

In the year and a half since winning the seat, Raschein has shown she intends to keep it. By the end of February, she had already raised more than $113,660 for her first term and spent almost $24,800 of that. She cranked up her efforts in February, bringing in more than $24,250 in that month alone.

Businesswoman and community leader Pamela Anne Gray filed her paperwork back in May to challenge Raschein. So far, Gray is the only Democrat in the race. Gray had run for the Miami-Dade Commission in 2010, before withdrawing and throwing her support behind another candidate. Gray served as president of the Redlands Citizens Association and as the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board.

Democrats had high hopes for Gray when she entered the race but, frankly, she has done little to build a war chest despite being in the race for 10 months so far. Since entering in May till the end of February, Gray brought in $2,300 -- $1,200 of that in the first two months of 2014 -- and spent almost $1,700. Gray has been given more than ample time to try to catch Raschein in the money chase but shes simply not making progress. Money counts in the expensive South Florida market and Raschein has a decided edge.

Rascheins not out of the clear yet, by any means, and if a major Democratic candidate jumps in, she could still have a fight on her hands. But Gray simply isnt making much progress here and, as of now, the Republican incumbent looks headed for an easy win.

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

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