It’s official: Jay Fant beats Paul Renner in HD 15 by two votes

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By one of the narrowest margins in recent history — only two votes — Jacksonville business executive Jay Fant defeated attorney Paul Renner in the Florida House District 15 Republican primary.

As of Friday afternoon, including absentee and provisional ballots, the rancorous race ended with 5,962 votes for Fant, the former CEO of Jacksonville’s First Guaranty Bank, and 5,960 for Renner.

“This was a tough race in which we agreed more than we disagreed, and I want to continue to work with Paul on the priorities that we share, which include the well-being of Florida’s economy and resistance to so much of the Obama agenda,” said Fant said a statement issued Friday afternoon.

Also in a statement, Renner graciously accepted the results, and wished Fant success in the Legislature.

“Having grown up in Jacksonville and spent years in public service, both as a Naval officer and a criminal prosecutor, I will continue to look for opportunities to serve our great community,” he said.

The official vote by the Duval County Elections Supervisor gave Fant 50.01 percent of the vote, leaving Renner with 49.99 percent.

On election night, the margin was only three votes — Fant with 5,962 votes and Renner with 5,959.

Florida law requires machine recount if election results are within .5 percent. If a race comes under .25 percent, hand recounts are also required for certain ballots.

After accepting unofficial results Thursday night, the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland shipped the ballots to the state, which then performed a recount.

Near the end of the campaign, the race for the seat vacated by Rep. Daniel Davis, to represent the western part of Jacksonville and much of Duval County became one of the most expensive – and combative — races in the state. Combined spending in HD 15 reached nearly $700K.

Fant now faces two write-in candidates – Kerry Keith Kelley and Calvin White – in November’s General Election.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.