Port St. Joe’s Jason Shoaf swept to an easy victory Tuesday in the Republican primary special election, setting up a June 18 showdown with Democrat Ryan Terrell in a general election to determine who will represent fLORIDA House District 7.
The state representative’s seat opened in January after Halsey Beshears was picked by Gov. Ron DeSantis to head the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Shoaf, vice-president of St. Joe Natural Gas Co., picked up 4,708 votes, or close to 49 percent, easily outdistancing his nearest challenger, Mike Watkins, of Panacea, the CEO of Big Bend Community Based Care, who gathered 2,622 votes, or 27.3 percent.
Lynda Bell, the town manager of Sneads and a former Miami-Dade county commissioner and mayor of Homestead, attracted 1,880 votes, or 19.5 percent, while Virginia Fuller, who had most recently lodged an unsuccessful GOP challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, drew 408 votes, or 4.2 percent.
In Franklin County, Watkins, who had been endorsed by Sheriff A.J. Smith, did better than overall, attracting 328 Republican voters to Shoaf’s 359. Bell was the favorite to 104 GOP voters, and Fuller 18.
Shoaf carried eight of the 10 counties which are either entirely or partially within the sprawling district, including Gulf and Wakulla, where he racked up huge margins. Bell was the favorite in Liberty and Leon counties.
Flanked by his family Tuesday night at Joe Mama's Pizza in Port St. Joe, Shoaf said the results show that “this district has proven tonight that they want a conservative candidate; they want a family candidate.
“They want a candidate who fight for the Second Amendment and defend life. And they want someone who will help us recover from Hurricane Michael – so we can rebuild stronger and better than ever. “They want someone who will bring vocational training back to our schools so our kids can build careers,” he said.
Shoaf thanked his wife, Ashley, and two children, as well as his volunteers and supporters. “I look forward to bringing the people of North Florida together, and bringing our North Florida values to the Florida House,” he said.
Shoaf, a voting member of Triumph Gulf Coast, a non-profit set up by the Legislature to dole out $1.5 billion recovered in a settlement after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, drew criticism from Watkins during the campaign for his using that position to influence voters.
Shoaf attacked Watkins for the more than $400,000 salary he makes as CEO of a non-profit behavioral management company that draws heavily on government dollars.
Both men were relentless in attacking the other for what they said were political affiliations too close to liberal interests. And both spent heavily in the race, with Shoaf shelling out close to a quarter-million dollars, and Watkins nearly as much, to win a state rep job that pays not quite $30,000 a year.