You win some, you lose some.
Larry Ahern, owner of Larry Ahern Pool Remodeling Inc., defeated a Democratic incumbent to become the House representative for the 51st District in Florida.
A Republican based in St. Petersburg, Ahern secured 50 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 44 percent.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Congressional candidate Dee Adcock, also a Republican and co-owner of distributor W.W. Adcock Inc. in Huntingdon Valley, made a spirited run for national office. Ultimately, he came up short in his bid to unseat the 13th District incumbent.
For Ahern, the victory validated months of hard work and sent a clear message that voters want a new direction in Tallahassee.
“Government has been adding new rules and regulations all the time,” said Ahern, a longtime member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association. “But these regulations were put in place to manage growth; our system was set up for high growth levels. So unless we do something, we won’t be able to restart [development] in Florida. It makes it extremely burdensome for a small-business owner to start a new business or expand an existing one.”
Among those businessmen Ahern looks forward to representing is Jack Beane, president and founder of Jack’s Magic Products Inc. in Largo. In fact, the two have a business relationship that dates back to the mid-1980s, when Ahern owned a pool service and retail company.
“Larry put his heart and soul into this,” Beane said. “He walked the district, attended meetings and breakfasts. He came off as genuine because he is, and I think that resonated well.”
Ahern’s win also helped Republicans secure a veto-proof majority in Florida’s 120-seat House. That, along with a super-majority in the state Senate, prompted leaders in both chambers to call a special legislative session for Nov. 16, the day of inauguration, to overrule several vetoes of outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist.
Still, with Florida facing a projected multibillion-dollar deficit in the coming year, the task ahead may prove challenging.
“It’s hard being a legislator right now,” said Jennifer Hatfield, principal of Sarasota, Fla.-based J. Hatfield & Associates, which specializes in advocacy work for the industry. “They’re having to make tough decisions, so I don’t envy them on that.
“But it’s great for the industry to have representation in Tallahassee,” she added. “Larry is someone who understands our issues intimately. And he’ll have a background — a knowledge base — that other legislators don’t have. Hopefully, they will look to him on questions about pool and spa issues.”
Up in Pennsylvania, Adcock gave a strong showing against an entrenched Democrat who had to call on the state’s popular governor, as well as first lady Michelle Obama and former President Clinton, for support.
Despite the odds, and with little assistance from the national or state GOP, Adcock still managed a closer-than-expected result, garnering 44 percent of the vote against 56 percent for Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
“We ran it fully and completely,” Adcock said, adding that Schwartz’s campaign vastly outspent his own. “Had we been able to truly get our message out to as many people as we wanted to, perhaps we could have achieved what we set out to do. But we produced a real race where there was a Democratic safe seat. I’m sure we exceeded expectations, percentage-wise.”
As for another run in two years, Adcock couldn’t say.
“Working the grass roots and thinking about climbing that mountain again — it’s a lot,” he added. “But it was an adventure, and it stretched my gifts and abilities outside my normal box. So we’ll just have to see what the future brings.”