Ray Pilon will challenge Margaret Good for his old state House seat (Herald Tribune)


A familiar face in Sarasota politics will try to win back the District 72 state House seat that flipped from Republican to Democratic representation this month.

Former state Rep. Ray Pilon — a Sarasota Republican who held the District 72 seat from 2010 to 2016 before deciding to run for the state Senate and losing — told the Herald-Tribune in an interview Tuesday that he will try to win his old seat back.

Pilon, 73, said he is running because his “purpose in life” has been public service. He is a former sheriff’s deputy and Sarasota County commissioner.

Democrat Margaret Good won the District 72 seat — which covers much of northern Sarasota County — in a special election against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall.

Good’s upset victory in a seat President Donald Trump carried by more than four percentage points drew national attention and energized Democrats. But Pilon noted that he took out “a leading Democrat” when he first won the seat — back when it had a slightly different geographic configuration that was more favorable to Democrats — from former Democratic state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald.

Pilon sometimes bucked GOP leadership during his time in the Legislature, which could help him take on Good during an election season that appears favorable for Democrats. His voting record includes opposition to pro-gun and anti-abortion bills. He also supported expanding the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor in Florida and revising workplace anti-discrimination laws to include gay people.

“I’ve always tried to look at each individual piece of legislation based on what I thought was right for the district and right for the state,” he said.

Pilon may face a GOP primary. Buchanan has not decided whether he will run for the seat again. And Pilon said former School Board candidate Teresa Mast is exploring a run for the seat.

“She seems pretty firm that she wants to run,” he said. “We’ll see. That’s why we have elections.”

Pilon’s independent streak hurt his ability to rise into a leadership position in the Legislature. He repeatedly has criticized current state House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s leadership style. But Pilon said he gets along well with the next House speaker, Rep. Jose Oliva.

“There’s more than one way to be a leader,” Pilon said of his ability to wield influence in the Legislature. “You don’t always have to have a title and we will have a new administration.”

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