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Joseph Wilkinson, lone opponent to incumbent Jamie Grant in HD 64, withdraws from race

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Little-known political novice Joseph Wilkinson was never much of a threat to the incumbency of Republican state Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa, but now he has completely removed himself from consideration by voters in HD 64 altogether.

Wilkinson, also a Republican, had not reported raising any contributions. Grant, for his part, has raised $25 ahead of his 2016 re-election campaign.

Grant has faced real primary heat in the past: local attorney Miriam Steinberg won the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Times and 41 percent of the GOP vote in a closed primary last year whose results — like the Novemeber general election that followed — was tossed out by state courts amid a court battle over residency requirements for write-in candidates.

HD 64, which covers part of eastern Pinellas County as well as the northwest corner of Hillsborough, was without a representative in the House for months as courts invalidated the results because of a write-in who was wrongfully excluded from the ballot for not living in the district, which courts found was actually permissible. Lawmakers have since changed that state law.

The upshot of the legal wrangling and April special election: Grant got a refresh on his consecutive service, setting him up as a likely candidate for House speaker in 2022 on the strength of his greater experience.

Grant raised a total of $208,390 for his 2014 campaign against Steinberg and $193,533 in 2010 when he won election to HD 47, an Orlando-based seat he held before he moved to the Bay Area after 2011 redistricting.

Grant is known for libertarian-leaning stances on social and economic issues, as well as an enthusiasm for “ride-sharing” services like Uber, on whose behalf he has advocated with the similarly minded state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Grant has spoken out against moves by the legislatively designated Public Transportation Commission in Hillsborough County, which he has said is upholding archaic rules to prevent market competition when it comes to vehicles for hire.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com 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 ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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