GOP wins trio of special elections

By Stacey Readout, executive producer, News4Jax, and Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Republicans easily won a trio of Northeast Florida legislative seats Tuesday during special elections triggered by the resignation last year of former Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, to become president of Florida State University.

 Given the GOP's dominance in the region and the significant fundraising edge of the Republican candidates, the results were expected.

 With all precincts reporting in the race for Thrasher's former Senate District 6 seat, Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, was carrying about 69.7 percent of the vote to 30.3 percent for Daytona Beach Democrat David Cox. Hutson had earlier defeated Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart of Ponte Vedra Beach in a GOP primary.

"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."

 Hutson's new district includes St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties and the northeast corner of Volusia.

 The Senate Republican leadership quickly issued a statement welcoming Hutson to the chamber, where the GOP holds a 26-14 advantage.

 "I know he plans to hit the ground running and am confident he will utilize the experience gained from his service in the Florida House as well as his perspective as a businessman raising a young family to maximize his contributions to the Senate during these final weeks of session," said Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

 The decision by Hutson and Renuart to seek Thrasher's seat --- which required them to resign from the House --- also sparked elections in their districts.

 In Hutson's House District 24, Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner carried almost 67 percent of the vote to about 33 percent for St. Augustine Democrat Adam Morley. Renner ran unsuccessfully for a different Northeast Florida seat in last year's elections. District 24 includes Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia counties.

"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. "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."

 And in House District 17, which includes the northern half of St. Johns County, Republican Cyndi Stevenson easily carried Renuart's old seat against no-party candidate Judy Stevens and write-in Mary Anne Boczek. Stevenson had about 77.8 percent of the vote to about 22.2 percent for Stevens. No vote had been reported for Boczek.

 "I'm proud to welcome Representatives Renner and Stevenson to the Florida House," said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. "I look forward to the addition of their voices to our already strong Republican majority."

 The two wins allow the House GOP to retain its 80-39 majority, pending another special election in House District 64 scheduled for April 21.

 All three winners will be sworn in Wednesday.

Click to view county-by-county breakdown of the votes.

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