Pasco County Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that his House District 37 campaign had gathered enough signatures to make the ballot by petition.
The campaign said it has collected and submitted 1,225 petitions, which equates to 1 percent of the voter registration in HD 37. Qualifying by petition allows candidates to avoid paying a fee to the Florida Division of Elections.
Zika’s announcement comes seven weeks before the qualifying period for state offices begins.
“Pasco County is my home and where my wife and I are raising our children. We love Pasco County and believe our community’s brightest days are ahead of us,” the Land O’ Lakes businessman said in a press release.
“We’ve knocked on thousands of doors across House District 37 and its truly humbling and overwhelming to have more than 1,225 voters in House District 37 sign their name to a petition, allowing my name on the ballot. I’m also very appreciative to our friends and family who have volunteered countless hours to help us qualify for the ballot.
“It is an honor and a privilege to have such strong support from across our community and I am grateful for each and every person who has signed the petition, volunteered their time and financially supported our campaign. I truly believe that by working together, we can accomplish great things. I invite you to join us as, together, we work tirelessly to make Pasco County an even better place to live, work, worship and raise a family.”
Zika, who immigrated to the United States from Kosovo in 1997, is running in a four-way primary for HD 37, currently held by termed-out House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
He faces Ryan Patrick Boney, Bill Gunter and Elle Rudisill in the Republican Primary, while Tammy Garcia and Denise Mestanza-Taylor are competing for the Democratic nomination.
Through the end of March, Zika had a commanding lead in the money race with $166,578 raised and $155,117 in the bank. Rudisill is in a distant second place with $13,628 raised and $13,384 on hand.
Garcia has about $6,000 on hand, followed by Gunter with $4,400, though he hasn’t shown any new contributions since July. Boney and Mestanza-Taylor both have $0 in their accounts.
Zika is also leading his primary opponents in endorsements, having earned the backing of St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.
HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.
The electorate is about 43 percent Republican, and 29 percent Democrat with 24 percent belonging to no party. Corcoran hasn’t faced a major-party challenger in the Republican stronghold since it was redrawn in 2012.