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COLLIER COUNTY — A political unknown who has lived in Naples for two years will square off Tuesday against an incumbent and 33-year Collier County resident in the Republican primary for state House District 106.
It will likely be an uphill battle for David Bolduc, 44, a precious metals assets manager who has never held or run for political office, elections experts say. He hopes his financial prowess will win voters from Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, 59, R-Naples, a practicing attorney.
"I don't look at it as if I'm running against Kathleen Passidomo," said Bolduc, a 21-year veteran in finance and investments who works for a Canada-based firm. "I'm looking to propose solutions to the economic perils staring us in the face."
In a way, this is Passidomo's first race, too, having won her first term by default after two competitors dropped out in 2010.
"That didn't slow me down from participating in campaign activities," Passidomo said. "That was my way of connecting with future constituents."
Local political experts said the odds are in Passidomo's favor. As the incumbent she's known, she has a track record and she's raised the money needed to run a good campaign. District 106 includes the southwest coastal corner of Collier County, mostly west of U.S. 41.Peter Bergerson, a public affairs professor at Florida Gulf Coast University said even shoe-in incumbents would be foolish not to run a campaign.
"No candidate should take any election for granted unless there's no opposition," he said. "But the likelihood of a political unknown defeating someone who is an incumbent and lifelong resident with a positive image in the community, his chances of winning are remote at best."
Indeed Passidomo has already won the fundraising competition, pulling in $123,361 in loans, and monetary and in-kind contributions. Her pool dwarfs Bolduc's, which was at $5,602 as of the most recent July 20 filing date.
"That's hard to compete against, certainly," Bolduc said. "My first time running, I would love to have a more sizeable war chest."
Passidomo said money came easily this year, with local supporters offering to host fundraisers.
"A lot of these people are supporting me because we've been friends for so long," she said.
But Bergerson said money isn't the only factor in winning.
"Another is how well known the candidate is, what he's done in the community before the election, what kind of support he has," he said. "What the issues are would be important and what kind of organization the individual is able to put forward."
By the same token, Passidomo must be able to translate her contributions into a campaign, Bergerson said, something Passidomo said she's done through mailers, signage and email blasts. Mainly, she's been making appearances, stopping at two to three events each week while still practicing law.
So far, she's spent $56,945, likely saving the bulk of her money for a possible race against Libertarian Peter Richter in the general election. Richter has raised $6,502.
Bolduc said he's spent money on signs and informational cards he's passed out to local businesses. With his focus on establishing a state bank of Florida and investing in alternate forms of energy, he hopes to stand a chance against the odds.
"The biggest issue is the economy," he said. "If (voters) want to elect a state representative whose whole livelihood is studying and understanding the economy, then yes, I do think that is an advantage."
Laura Weir, a political science professor at Edison State College, said a well-known incumbent has to make a major mistake for a lesser-known competitor to win.
"In this case the representative will have had to shirked her responsibility or taken the district for granted, not campaigned, just been cavalier about holding office," Weir said. "People notice that."
Come Tuesday, each candidate said they'll be at home, watching election results with family.
"Once that's done, I'll start gearing up for November," Passidomo said.