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Special election in HD 38 pits conventional GOP wisdom against the party of Trump

Only 5,000 voters have cast a ballot in the race so far.

Early voting is underway Friday and Saturday in the Florida House District 38 Special Election and the choice for Republicans could not be more different.

Voters will decide Tuesday who to send to the General Election in June.

Randy Maggard serves as the more establishment candidate. He’s got money and high-profile endorsements.

David McCallister is the establishment antithesis. He’s a die-hard Trump supporter who wears his red MAGA hat to campaign events proudly and consistently tells voters he’ll drain the swamp in Tallahassee.

The winner of that match-up will face Democrat Kelly Smith on June 18 in the deep-red district that includes most of Pasco County.

So far, 5,000 Republicans out of 44,000 have voted in the race. Early voting is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with the Election Tuesday.

Maggard seems poised to deliver a solid victory over McCallister next week. He’s raised $116,000 so far in the race, according to the Florida Division of Elections campaign finance database. McCallister has raised just $35,000.

Maggard also has solid backing from the GOP. As chair of Pasco County Republican Executive Committee, Maggard earned some solid name recognition. He has support from Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson, who represents part of Pasco County, as well as Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

But McCallister represents a different voter base — the one that hoisted President Donald Trump to victory in 2016. While Maggard is focused on issues surrounding water and transportation, McCallister is touting far-right support for things like banning the removal of confederate monuments.

McCallister’s most recent claim to fame is his 2017 effort to block Hillsborough County from removing a confederate monument from the Hillsborough County Courthouse, an effort in which he was ultimately unsuccessful. He’s the head of a local Sons of Confederacy group and is a frequent at Hillsborough County Commission speaking in support of Confederate history.

His platform includes removing restrictions on bump stocks on guns — the add-on feature that allows semi-automatic weapons to act similarly to fully-automatic ones. He also wants to protect the “unborn and newly born” by supporting fetal heartbeat legislation.

McCallister told Florida Politics in February he’s running to protect voters from the “radical left” agenda that seeks to “destroy the past in order to control the future.”

Though Maggard hasn’t made statues a monumental part of his campaign, he does take a similar stance on most GOP tent poles. His website touts him as a conservative Republican who is pro-2nd Amendment, pro life, a Trump supporter and for banning so-called “sanctuary cities.”

McCallister doesn’t live in the district he’s seeking. He currently lives in Temple Terrace, which is in Hillsborough County. If elected he’d have to move to the district.

Maggard and McCallister are running to replace Danny Burgess who left office after Governor Ron DeSantis appointed him to head the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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