There wasn’t much suspense in the outcome of top-of-the-ticket races in the 2014 primary so guests at the Florida Chamber election watch party created a pool of 10 House races they believed were within the margin of error to monitor through the night.
“Here’s a fun one to debate,” said Marian Johnson, a Chamber senior vice president. “House District 5, Brad Drake, the business community is very fond of him and then along comes Realtor Jan Hooks who raised a lot of money. This is going to be an interesting one.”
While waiting for the polls to close and results to come in, a handful of Chamber staff and members weighed the candidates’ knowledge of issues, how they dealt with the issues in the campaign, money raised and the quality of their ground game.
Primary races in 16 state House contests Tuesday all but decided who will go to Tallahassee as a member of the Florida Legislature since the winners will face token opposition in November in the form of a write-in candidate. Another 39 House members were elected to another term without any opposition. That means 55 House seats were decided in Tuesday’s primary, nearly half of the 120-member Florida House.
Here are the results of some of the races where a lawmaker was selected in a closed primary and will appear alone on the November ballot, challenged only by write-in candidates. A write-in candidate has never won a Florida legislative election.
In House District 3, Republican incumbent Doug Broxson raced past Jamie Smith with Broxson picking up 69 percent of the vote.
A $170,000 campaign budget didn’t help Jan Hooks in the House District 5 race. Former Representative Brad Drake carried 72 percent of the vote to succeed Marti Coley. Drake has to get past Libertarian Karen Schoen in November.
Tallahassee’s two representatives won contested primaries. In the House District 8 race, incumbent Alan Williams easily bested challenger Diann Williams to serve a fourth term. And HD 9 Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda defeated Arnitta Grice Walker. Williams pulled in 68 percent and Vasilinda 81 percent of the vote.
In a closely watched Jacksonville race to replace HD 15 Rep. Daniel Davis, banker Jay Fant — despite a $600,000 war chest — was locked in a tight race with Afghanistan veteran Paul Renner, the margin small enough to trigger a recount.
Renner was endorsed by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St Augustine, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Fant is opposed to Common Core State Standards and promised “to stand up to Washington to defend our small businesses.”
In another Jacksonville area race, HD 16 Rep. Charles McBurney sped past challenger Chris Oliver.
In a suburban Orlando dust-up over HD 28, Rep. Jason Brodeur survived a primary challenge by Kathryn Townsend. Brodeur carried 63 percent of the vote.
Jennifer Sullivan appeared to emerge as the winner of a five-way Republican primary for the HD 31 seat held by Rep. Bryan Nelson. Sullivan received 34 percent of the vote.
In a Sarasota race that drew a lot of money and attention, orthopedic surgeon Julio Gonzales slipped past Attorney Richard DeNapoli, the former chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee. Gonzales carried 57 percent of the vote to claim the House District 74 seat.
Gonzalez said he believed the medical industry is underrepresented in the Legislature and he is intrigued by the Negron plan, an alternative to Medicaid expansion as called for under the Affordable Care Act, which may qualify for increased federal subsidies.
Rep. Tom Goodson defeated challenger George Collins and returns to Tallahassee for a third term representing House District 50.
Ed Narain won a four-way contest to succeed Rep. Betty Reed for Tampa’s HD 61 seat. Narain received 34 percent of the vote and will appear on the November ballot opposed by write-in candidate Nicole Santiago.
Fort Myers Rep. Dane Eagle cruised past four challengers for the HD 77 Republican nomination. Eagle collected 63 percent of the vote and will appear on the November ballot opposed by write-in candidate Jeremy Wood.
Incumbent Steven Perman fell to Kristin Jacobs. Jacobs picked up 76 percent of the vote for the HD 96 seat while incumbent Matt Caldwell survived a challenge for HD 79, winning with 60 percent of the vote.
Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, HD 78, was unopposed in the primary and will face write-in candidate McLeod Bates Haney in November.