Putnam County Resident Eases To GOP Nod For State House


Putnam County moved one step closer to having a hometown representative in the state Legislature.

Chasing the legacy of former state Reps. Kelley Smith and Joe Pickens, Palatka native Bobby Payne eased to victory in the state House District 19 Republican primary race Tuesday.

Payne, a 58-year-old manager at Seminole Electric Cooperative, defeated Katherine Van Zant and Leslie Dougher and advances to a general election contest against Joe Snodgrass, the unopposed Democrat who has suspended his campaign because of a cancer diagnosis.

The District 19 seat came open because the current seat holder, Charles Van Zant, is term limited. Katherine Van Zant, 55, attempted to win her husband’s seat but finished second with 5,772 votes. Dougher, the former state GOP chairwoman, was third with 4,652 votes.

But it was Payne’s 7,588 votes that carried the day. A little more than half his votes came from Putnam County, his home county. He won Putnam with 55.56 of the vote.

“We are extremely excited about it,” Payne said. “It’s good to know, looking at the poll numbers throughout the district, that we had overwhelming support in Putnam County. It shows with the majority of the campaign team from here that the hard work and the effort to bring representation to our community, Putnam County, the center of the district, paid off.”

Payne thanked his family, friends and campaign staff, and singled out Smith and Pickens, former representatives from Putnam County, and John Browning, a prominent GOP fundraiser in the county.

In the three-way GOP primary things took an early turn when Dougher accused Katherine Van Zant and her husband of an illegal homestead exemption. Dougher also said she was filing a complaint with the state Commission on Ethics board.

Payne, however, remained relatively unscathed as the attacks began.

“We felt like it was coming, because we had taken the lead,” Payne said. “That’s not my style. It got extremely negative in the end. But I’ve received calls from both of the other opponents (Tuesday night), and we all talked about it. They’re happy for me. They offered congratulations.”

Dougher did not return a call seeking comment. When reached Tuesday night, Katherine Van Zant said she didn’t want to talk about the race and congratulated Payne.

“Let me just sum it up, I’ve congratulated Bobby,” she said. “Bobby won the race. He won the race. That’s the result we have.”