Kathleen Peters Has Rivals from Left and Right

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: March 3, 2014 3:55 AM
Kathleen Peters

Kathleen Peters

Things are getting tougher for Kathleen Peters as she runs to keep her Florida House seat after losing the Republican congressional primary to David Jolly last month.

Peters is facing threats from the left and the right and they’re growing more serious. Last week, attorney Scott Orsini, a Democrat, kicked off his campaign against Peters. Orsini has deep ties to the area and has been active in the community for years.

Democrats can do well in this Pinellas County district. After beating two other candidates in the Republican primary with 51 percent, Peters had a close call in 2012, taking 52 percent to win the open seat while Democrat Josh Shulman took 48 percent.

But Peters has other things to focus on besides November since she is not going to have an easy time in the Republican primary. Back in December, during Peters’ congressional campaign, Leo Govoni filed to run for the seat as a Republican. Govoni has an impressive background, leading Boston Asset Management in Clearwater and being active in the community.

In his first two months on the campaign trail, Govoni has shown himself to be a capable fundraiser. Back in December, Govoni raised $50,815 and spent only $116. Govoni did fine in January as well as he took in $20,250 and spent less than $4,450. With around $66,500 in the bank at the end of January, Govoni has built himself a healthy war chest.

Peters has been raising funds for a second term for more than a year now, though she understandably focused a good deal on bringing in money for her congressional campaign. But Govoni has more on hand than Peters does and raised more in two months than she had in an entire year. So far, Peters has raised less than $57,500 -- including $9,550 in the last two months -- and spent around $1,500 of that.

Because Jolly painted her as too liberal for many Republican voters and questioned her position on abortion, Peters might have problems bringing the GOP base back to her. In his first try for public office, Jolly won with 45 percent while Peters took 31 percent. Still, Peters has ties to the area, serving on the South Pasadena City Commission and served as mayor before she headed to Tallahassee in 2012.

While he’s only 27, Givoni has been pretty active in the community and he’s starting to win over some key Republicans. Last week, Tony DiMatteo, who has held leadership positions with the Pinellas County GOP, announced he was backing Govoni against Peters.

Randy Taylor is running as the Libertarian in the race and he has deep ties to the area, but he had less than $100 in the bank at the end of January. Still, if Libertarian Lucas Overby does well in the congressional contest, Taylor stands to benefit.

Peters has a challenger on her hands, to be sure. This is increasingly becoming one of the most intriguing legislative contests -- and certainly one of the most competitive legislative primaries -- in Florida.

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

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