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Kelly Smith faces Randy Maggard in the House District 38 Special Election.

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House District 38 to be decided today as voters look to fill a seat that’s been vacant for months

The district is solidly red with nearly 7,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

Pasco County voters head to the polls Tuesday to elect a new member to the Florida House of Representatives seat that has sat vacant since Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed House District 38 Rep. Danny Burgess to lead the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Republican Randy Maggard is favored to beat Democrat Kelly Smith in the conservative district.

The district is solidly red with nearly 7,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. While more than 28,000 no party and third party affiliated voters in the district who could bridge that gap for Democrats, it’s highly unlikely.

Burgess first won the seat in 2014 by an overwhelming 20 percent. He ran unopposed two years later and then, last year, won in a landslide of more than 32 points.

Spending is also on Maggard’s side. He has raised more than $222,000 including a $50,000 loan from the candidate. Meanwhile, Smith has raised just $45,000.

Maggard also has an edge in endorsements. Several high-profile Republicans are backing Maggard, including Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Wilton Simpson, former Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Florida Realtors, Sen. Joe Gruters and former Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran, among others.

Smith has support from former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the local Sierra Club, the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, the National Organization of Women Florida Chapter and the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 12,000 people had already cast a vote in the race either through mail or early voting. Of those, more than 5,500 were cast by Republicans with only 4,400 Democrats voting. The rest were by no party affiliated voters. Voter turnout so far has surpassed 10 percent. 

Polls open Tuesday for Election Day voting at 7 a.m.

Voters who still haven’t cast a ballot can find their polling places on the Pasco County Supervisor of Election’s website.

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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