Three Republicans competed in the primary to succeed exiting House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37, and with the election in the books, Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zika earned the nomination.
With 35 of 36 precincts reporting, Zika led his closest opponent, Elle Rudisill, 57-26 percent. The third Republican vying for the seat, Ryan Patrick Boney, received about 17 percent of the vote.
Zika, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s, held a consistent lead in fundraising and in endorsements throughout his campaign to replace Corcoran, who could not run again due to term limits.
Five days ahead of the primary, Zika had raised more than $227,000 for his campaign and had more than $85,000 left to spend.
Among the many backers Republican politicians backing his bid were St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Rudisill, also of Land O’ Lakes, wasn’t as successful on the fundraising front — her tally barely crossed the $15,000 mark — but she did gain some nods from area Republicans, including former Clearwater Rep. Ed Hooper, Pasco Clerk Paula O’Neill, former state Rep. Ken Littlefield and former Pasco Commissioner Henry Wilson.
Boney, an Odessa Republican, entered the race at the beginning of the year and didn’t field much of a campaign. The lone action from his campaign account was fronting the ballot fee by way of a candidate contribution.
With the nomination secured, Zika now moves on to the general election, where he’ll go head-to-head against Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia.
Garcia, a first-time candidate who works in medical insurance billing, has raised $12,381 since opening her campaign account in January with about $5,800 in the bank on Aug. 23. Finances aside, she faces an uphill battle given HD 37’s strong Republican lean.
While there are no state House results to point to — Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns — the district cemented itself as a Republican stronghold when Donald Trump carried the it by a 61-34 percent margin on Election Day 2016.
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.