Democrat Ben Diamond has defeated Republican JB Benshimen in the House District 68 race, 56 percent to 44 percent.
“I’m so honored to have been chosen to represent our district in Tallahassee,” said Diamond. “I’m looking forward to working hard for the people of Pinellas County. I want to thank my family, friends, supporters, and volunteers for all their help in making this possible. I also want to congratulate JB Bensmihen on a well-run race.”
Diamond is a first-time candidate who emerged as the Democratic nominee in the wake of Dwight Dudley suddenly announcing this spring he would not run for re-election to his seat, which he captured in 2012 and again in 2014. Diamond received several key endorsements in the final weeks of the campaign: Service Employees International Union (SEIU) of Florida, West Central Florida Labor Council (AFL-CIO), Planned Parenthood PAC, and the Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida. He also racked up the backing of a long list of former and current lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Graham, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, former CFO Alex Sink, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Amy Foster and Councilmembers Jim Kennedy, Karl Nurse, Darden Rice, and Lisa Wheeler-Brown; and Pinellas County Commissioners Charlie Justice, Janet Long, and Ken Welch.
Organizations also supporting Diamond: Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County, Equality Florida, Florida Professional Firefighters, Suncoast Police Benevolent Association, Florida Conservation Voters, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Florida Education Association.
Diamond defeated Eric Lynn in a contested Democratic primary in August, and it is now looking as if he will keep the seat blue.
Bensmihen lost a bid for Congress last year in Palm Beach County. He only moved to the district in April, and had to fend off criticism he was a “carpetbagger.”