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Republicans sweep NE Florida House, Senate special elections

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Rep. Travis Hutson prevailed big time in his bid to jump up to the Legislature’s upper chamber today, defeating Democratic nominee Adam Cox by a margin 69.7 to 30.3 with all precincts reporting. Hutson will become senator-elect in District 6 tonight at midnight.

Down the ballot, the battle to replace Hutson — who in turn is resigning from the House to take former state Sen. John Thrasher‘s old seat — in House District 24 was won by Paul Renner, who thrashed Democrat Adam Morley, garnering 67 percent of the vote to Morley’s 33.

In the heavily Republican St. Johns County-based House District 17 special, Cyndi Stevenson won in an even bigger way, cruising over no-party candidate Judy Stevens and write-in Mary Ann Boczek, capturing 77.8 percent of the vote.

Stevenson replaces state Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, who also attempted to trade in his House incumbency for a spot in the Senate, but was bested 52-35 by Hutson in a three-way race.

The results in the special elections — in which around 10 percent of eligible voters were expected to cast a ballot — finally put to rest the falling of dominoes that was the aftermath of Thrasher’s decision to assume the presidency of Florida State University back in November, just weeks after securing re-election to the Senate.

Hutson issued a victory statement about 45 minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m. in the large and variegated District 6, sounding ebullient in victory.

“I would like to thank the voters for their unyielding support of my campaign and the values I represent during this special election,” said Hutson. “As I have said many times on the campaign trail, I am passionate about our Northeast Florida community and I am humbled the voters have chosen me to represent the First Coast in the Florida Senate.”

District 6 encompasses Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns counties, and part of Volusia County. Hutson, along with Renner and Stevenson, will enjoy a little extra seniority over their freshman classmates, who won’t take office until January 2017.

Renner also declared victory early on this evening.

“Voters made it very clear that what they want in Tallahassee is a real conservative leader and I am humbled to have been elected tonight to serve as their voice,” said Renner in a statement.

“I would like to thank our First Coast community for their constant support during this special election, as well as my family, friends and the volunteers who worked around the clock to help secure us a win during this special election for House District 24,” Renner continued.

Renner also made it clear Tuesday evening what it was exactly that he was sent to the Florida House to do:

“Throughout my campaign, I stressed the importance of keeping taxes low, eliminating overly burdensome regulations and bureaucratic red tape, and promoting economic growth and expanding opportunity for everyone; and, I look forward to getting to the Capitol to fight for those core beliefs and principles for the people of Northeast Florida,” concluded Renner.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli tweeted, about two hours after polls closed, “Congratulations to the two newest Members of the House — @Paul_Renner and @Vote4Cyndi! We look forward to serving with you!”

The Florida Democratic Party opted not to seriously pursue the seats owing to their conservative tinge, though some progressives analysts privately told SaintPetersBlog they were disappointed about the absence of a viable alternative amid the topsy-turvy electoral mini-cycle.

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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