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2020

Kaylee Tuck beats Ned Hancock in not-that-close HD 55 primary

Polls predicted the race would be close.

Kaylee Tuck solidly defeated Ned Hancock in the House District 55 GOP primary.

With all votes reported, Tuck won all four counties in the rural district, ultimately taking with 56% of the vote to Hancock’s 44%.

“Thank you so much to all the voters in District 55 for their faith in me,” Tuck told Florida Politics. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but I promise to work every day to live up to the high expectations that have been set. The journey has been the time of my life, and I can’t thank my community enough.”

Tuck now faces Democrat Linda Tripp in November, but it’s expected to be a lopsided race with a strong GOP advantage.

The Highlands citrus rancher and the Sebring lawyer both filed last June to succeed Rep. Cary Pigman in the Republican district. In the months since they have traveled around the four largely rural counties looking for votes.

Hancock, a former Highlands County School Board member, worked to expand his political brand over the broader region. Along the way, he enjoyed strong support from the agriculture industry, a political behemoth in the Heartland. That significantly contributed to a tremendous resource advantage heading into Election Day. He spent nearly $248,000 through Thursday on his campaign.

As for Tuck, the young lawyer who graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2018 campaigned as a millennial conservative determined to show a different side of her generation than national figures like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat.

She also entered the scene with political connections of her own. Her father, Andy Tuck, serves now as chairman of the Florida Board of Education. After filing, regional power players like developer Pat Neal introduced her to political leaders. In the 2019 Legislative Session, she also became an outspoken voice in favor of controversial toll roads through the Heartland, hated by environmentalists but hungered for by economic development officials in the sparsely populated region. She trailed Hancock most of the race in donations, spending around $124,000 on the race.

In recent weeks, Hancock’s budget votes drew some scrutiny and he faced questions online regularly about why taxes went up during his time on the School Board. He also had to answer for why he donated to Democrats, as recently as a check supporting now-Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in 2018. He compared that to President Donald Trump’s support for New York Democrats while he conducted business in the city, and said he donated far more to Republicans.

Tuck was critiqued over a lack of experience. She said it’s her convictions that matter most to voters. She said she grew tired of the tone of the race.

“From my opponent attacking me on where I live even though he knows I live in the district, where I work, and attacking my supporters, to now touting fake ratings from fake organizations shows his standing in the race. From my interactions with people at the door, they are sick of his antics,” she said. “My campaign will continue to keep our heads down, knock on every door, and get in front of every voter we can before Election Day.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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