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John Thrasher-induced limbo to be resolved in Northeast Florida special elections Tuesday

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The long tail of legislative seat-hopping put into motion when former Sen. John Thrasher decided to resign to become Florida State University’s new president will come to an end Tuesday.

Special elections are slated to be held in Senate District 6 — Thrasher’s old seat — as well as House Districts 24 and 17, which Reps. Travis Hutson and “Doc” Renuart were enticed to leave in order to pursue Thrasher’s spot in the upper chamber, respectively.

Though somewhat more votes are expected to be cast in these races compared to the very low-turnout affair in which Rep. Reggie Fullwood regained his seat last month after an interruption in his consecutive service due to paperwork errors — Duval Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland predicted about 8 percent of voters to come out in that race — the races will have real significance despite their obscurity.

Candidates who take office by special elections are historically far more likely to attain leadership positions within their caucuses due to their natural advantage of longer service than their colleagues.

Paul Renner and Travis Hutson continued to pour onto their fundraising advantages over their Democratic opponents Adam Morley and David Cox, who are expected to be sacrificial lambs as the GOP continues to maintain their lopsided majorities in both chambers.

Hutson submitted a letter of resignation effective on a date “to be determined” when he filed for the Senate seat he has eyed for some time. When, as most observers expect, he is elected to the seat, he will officially switch chambers on Wednesday.

Cyndi Stevenson for her part faces an even clearer path to victory in House District 17, where she dispatched primary opponents Mike Davis and Jack Capra in a hotly-contested race.

Davis won some significant endorsements – including that of the heavy-hitting Florida Retail Federation – and outspent both Stevenson and Capra but was narrowly defeated as Stevenson gained a 41.6 percent plurality to Davis’ 39.2, with Capra receiving the remainder.

Stevenson now faces only NPA candidate Judy Stevens and a write-in opponent. Since the primary Stevenson has poured it on in the fundraising department, commanding over $170,000 despite meaningful opposition.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp emphasized the heavily R-oriented character of the districts and said that despite the turmoil injected into the atmosphere by the off-season action, the races tomorrow will simply swap around “Republican dominoes.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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