Veteran Experience Vs. Fresh Perspective in District 72



If there’s one bit of payback Sarasota Republicans want this November, it’s a second shot this year at winning an election in state House District 72. But first, the party must select a nominee. Former Rep. Ray Pilon faces political newcomer Jason Miller in the Republican primary on Tuesday, and the party fight will decide whether the November strategy will focus on returning the tried and true or replacing with the shiny and new.

Pilon, who served in the Legislature from 2010 through 2016, has beaten an incumbent here before and believes he has what it takes to do so again. He also stresses that he’s experienced in the ways of Florida State Capitol. “I have the expertise of knowing how the system works in Tallahassee,” he says. “It’s not easy when you first go up there.” In addition to his time as a member of the House, Pilon notes he also worked with lawmakers as a Sarasota County commissioner and a decade as the government affairs coordinator for the Peace River Water Authority.

But Miller says he represents a new way of thinking, both as a candidate and if he wins as a lawmaker. A bevy of young voters—and young representatives—mean fresh ideas will thrive. The House will likely be run next year by Speaker Designate José Oliva, a 45-year-old. “With that comes a a different energy and ability to communicate the message,” he says. But Miller does have his own public experience from which to draw, including years working in the State Attorney’s Office. That has shown him the needs of the community in fields like mental health and opioid addiction, and his business connections here show him the need to address issues like red tide.

The winner will challenge incumbent Rep. Margaret Good in the general election. The Democrat in November made national headlines winning a special election in a Republican-leaning district. 

Pilon says it will take an experienced campaigner who knows the district to knock down the incumbent. “I can’t imagine him [Miller] beating her [Good], but anything is possible.” While Miller notes he was born in Sarasota, Pilon says he’s lived here as long as Miller has been alive, and the long-standing community connections will make a difference when people choose a representative.

Miller says he respects the long service of Pilon to the community, but he says a connection to a new class of lawmakers will be important to being a successful lawmaker for the district. He said Good can’t effectively legislate from the political minority in Tallahassee, and, Blue Wave or not, Republicans will most likely control the state House in the Fall. “I’m here listening to people, and I have to take that voice to Tallahassee,” he says. “I’m the only one who can get those things done.”

The Republican primary is scheduled for Tuesday.

Pictured: Jason Miller, Ray Pilon

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