Ralph Massullo cruises to HD 23 re-election

The incumbent had a big edge in campaign financing.

Rep. Ralph Massullo will get a fourth term in the House after easily winning the District 23 Primary.

Massullo, a Lecanto Republican, bested Tod Cloud and Paul Reinhardt to win the all-Republican Primary outright.

According to unofficial results, Massullo took 58% in the district, composed of Citrus County and the Dunnellon area of Marion County. Cloud and Reinhardt, who finished second and third, respectively, fared a little better in southern Marion County but still well behind Massullo.

The win sends Massullo back to the House — though it was not the path he envisioned.

In late 2021, the three-term Lecanto Republican talked openly about a run for Senate, regardless of how the redistricting process played out. 

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, had already made his intentions clear by opening a Senate District 11 campaign account in July 2021. Massullo followed in December.

Meanwhile other candidates, including a former Citrus County Commissioner, were lining up for what they thought would be a vacant HD 23 seat.

Then, Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the picture.

DeSantis threw the Senate race for a loop in March when he announced his endorsement of Ingoglia, which caught even Massullo off guard. Two days later, Massullo said he would drop the SD 11 campaign and instead seek re-election, with the Governor’s endorsement.

That move shifted two other candidates out of the HD 23 race: Rebecca Bays, who opted for a run at Citrus County Commission, and J.J. Grow.

It left Massullo in a Republican winner-take-all Primary against Reinhardt, a Beverly Hills investor who has twice lost in previous attempts at elected office, and Cloud, a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper from Homosassa.

The money race, as expected, wasn’t close.

Massullo had nearly $640,000 in collections between his campaign account and committee, Better Lives for Floridians. Anticipating the Senate showdown with Ingoglia, Massullo loaned his campaign $1.5 million — only to pay it back in June when that anticipated race fizzled.

Cloud brought in $21,505, including a $5,000 loan, and spent nearly all of it.

Reinhardt collected just $1,010 and loaned the campaign $3,500.

One issue dominated discussion in the new HD 23, composed of Citrus County and the Dunnellon area of Marion County. Both Cloud and Reinhardt trumpeted their opposition to the Northern Turnpike Extension, which had broad public and political opposition throughout the district. Massullo also said it wouldn’t be needed until the Suncoast Parkway is completed to U.S. 19.

The state this month announced it was pausing plans for the turnpike extension and eliminating the four potential routes under consideration.

Massullo, a dermatologist, also recently called attention to Reinhardt’s background, saying Reinhardt is calling himself a medical doctor when he has no license to practice medicine and has never had one. Reinhardt refused a reporter’s request to answer questions about it.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


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