HD 15 preview: Sometimes data gives wrong impression

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Florida House District 15 demonstrates how some data can create a wrong impression. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party claim 40 percent of registered voters. However, this is a competitive House race without any Democratic candidate.

It’s a battle between two young Jacksonville professionals, banker Jay Fant, 47, and attorney Paul Renner, 46.

The district is a safe Republican seat. Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate here since 2002 when most of the precincts were in what was then House District 13.

­­­­House District 15 runs from U.S. Highway 301 in west Duval County. The southern border follows State Route 23 into southwest Jacksonville and the north border roughly follows I-10 into the city.

The seat came open when Republican incumbent Rep. Daniel Davis declined to run after being named the JAX Chamber President. The decision set the stage for a battle between Fant and Renner. Both are prolific fundraisers with Fant amassing the second biggest war chest among House candidates. Together the two campaigns have collected more than $500,000 in contributions and Fant has lent his campaign another $200,000 on top of that.

It’s a conservative district.

Gov. Rick Scott won the district in 2010 with 57 percent of the vote. President Barack Obama in the 2012 election received only 44 percent.  Both the Fant and Renner campaigns are appealing to the district’s conservative sentiments.

Fant is best known as the third-generation chairman of First Guaranty Bank until it closed in 2012. Renner is general counsel to the Duval County Republican Executive Committee. Both are campaigning on conservative themes and running against Washington, D.C.

Fant is opposed to Common Core state education standards and promises to “stand up to Washington to defend our small businesses and constitutional rights. ”

Renner says he will, “fight Obamacare and let families choose the best education for their kids.”­­­­­

Renner is an Afghanistan veteran and has the endorsement of Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford and JAXBIZ, the political arm of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Fant counters with the backing of a coalition of 30 business leaders and former Mayor John Peyton and former JEA Managing Director Jim Dickenson.

As of Aug. 1, Renner reports raising $264751 from 535 contributions with 422 donations coming from Jacksonville addresses. There are 121 contributions from attorneys listed on Renner’s campaign finance reports and 50 contributions, totaling $7,000, coming from insurance-related PACs.

Renner has $99,321 on hand and has hired Pat Bainter’s political consulting firm Data Targeting of Gainesville. Bainter’s research figured in the recent redistricting lawsuit where a judge ordered the redrawing of two congressional districts.

Fant has raised $415,264 in contributions and loans.

He lists 504 contributions on his campaign finance reports with 371 coming from Jacksonville addresses.  Among occupations his contributors listed, 83 said they are homemakers and 71 said they work in banking and investments.

The campaign has hired Brett Doster’s Front Line Strategies of Tallahassee. Doster was the executive director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 Florida campaign. His Aug. 1 finance report shows that Fant has $92,807 on hand.

The winner of the Republican primary will face two write-in candidates on the November ballot. However, neither Calvin T. White nor Kerry Keith Kelley reports having received any campaign contributions.