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Linda Stewart walks over Mike Clelland’s bankroll to win primary in SD 13

Former state Rep. Mike Clelland’s sizable campaign bankroll proved no match for former state Rep. Linda Stewart‘s indomitable ground game in east Orange County, as Stewart captured the Senate District 11 Democratic primary.

“I walked myself so silly, I bet you we covered 6,000 doors,” Stewart said Tuesday night. “I know we called through 10,000 phone calls, twice. And all mine was behind the scenes. I don’t have all those big commercials on TV. But we went directly, directly, into the voters’ households.”

That’s been Stewart’s patented campaign plan in past elections, as she’s twice won Orange County commission races and a state representative race, though she has lost some elections too, including the 2014 race to keep her House seat.

Stewart drew 43 percent of the vote Tuesday night, with Clelland — whose campaign and independent political action committee combined to raise about $700,000 and spent much of it on television — drew 34 percent. Former Orange County School Board Member Rick Roach drew 23 percent.

That puts Stewart into a match with Republican nominee Dean Asher for a Senate seat the Democrats are targeting to flip this year. The seat had long been a safe Republican hold, and is currently occupied by retiring Senate President Andy Gardiner. But redistricting has given Democrats a sizable advantage.

Asher, a Realtor, also has a formidable campaign war chest, which he has barely opened, awaiting the general election.

Stewart, always optimistic, insisted she is not worried, and said she’ll continue campaigning on the issues that she’s always used, including environmental protection, women’s rights, and health care.

“Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars? If you think that bothers me, it doesn’t,” Stewart said.

Actually, Asher’s most recent totals are closer to $550,000. Still, Stewart raised just $30,000 going into the primary.

“I got my own plan,” she said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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