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Cruz, Chamberlin appear to be tentative winners in State House 58 primary race

TAMPA — It appears Republican Hunter Chamberlin and Democrat Janet Cruz were victorious in a special primary election Tuesday for the District 58 state House seat.

Results won't be final until Thursday, after provisional ballots are counted, and those could make a difference in both races.

Chamberlin is ahead of his opponent, Jackie Rojas-Quinones, by only 12 votes based on preliminary results. Cruz is ahead of Pat Kemp by 58 votes.

It was unclear late Tuesday how many provisional ballots there were, but Craig Latimer, chief of staff for Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard said, "It's not hundreds."

Cruz, though, declared victory at her campaign headquarters in West Tampa.

"I am really excited to represent everybody in District 58," Cruz said during her victory party In West Tampa on Tuesday. "I'm going to run a positive upbeat campaign and I want all Democrats to join me and take me to Tallahassee."

The Democratic primary pitted Cruz, a Democratic fundraiser who lives in South Tampa, against community activist Kemp and attorney Gil Sanchez.

The battle between Cruz and Kemp turned nasty. Kemp supporters blasted Cruz because she doesn't live in the district and had real estate dealings with a man now serving 26 years in federal prison for mortgage fraud. Cruz supporters fired back by pointing out that Kemp's husband was charged with child neglect in 1999.

Cruz called for party unity in the general election.

"All of the awesome people that worked on all campaigns are invited to come meet with me so we can work together to keep this seat a Democratic seat," she said.

Kemp, though, who chairs the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, said she wouldn't concede the race until after the provisional ballots had been counted.

"I'm definitely waiting until Thursday," she said. "I want to make sure all the votes are counted."

Chamberlin monitored election results with his wife at his Seminole Heights home.

"Based on what I'm hearing I think I won," Chamberlin said. "If it becomes official, I'm looking forward to getting to work and going up against Ms. Cruz and debating the issues."

The winner of the general election on Feb. 23 replaces Democrat Michael Scionti, who resigned from the post last month to take a job with the Department of Defense.

Cruz, 53, says one of her most important tasks, if elected, would be to fight those who see offshore oil drilling as a way to boost Florida's economy.

She also would like to advance some of the bills sponsored by Scionti. Those include a proposal to require schools to provide disability awareness education and another to make it a misdemeanor to lie to law enforcement officers looking for criminals.

Cruz said she would also get behind a Scionti-sponsored bill that would prohibit credit card companies from sending people unsolicited blank checks.

Chamberlin, 37, is an attorney who specializes in civil litigation. If elected, he said, his first priority would be to create incentives to bring more manufacturing to the state, such as foreign automakers, who have opened plants in Tennessee, South Carolina and other southeastern states.

Chamberlin also would make school voucher programs a top priority, and advocates allowing out-of-state companies to insure property in Florida.

And he supports offshore oil-drilling, saying it would create jobs and generate revenue through drilling site leases. Newer technology, he said, would protect the beaches.

Voter turnout in the election was 6.7 percent, with 3,277 of the 48,754 eligible primary voters casting ballots.

It was the first election for Lennard, a former Hillsborough County schools superintendent appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in July to replace Phyllis Busansky as supervisor of elections. Busansky died in June.

Cruz, Chamberlin appear to be tentative winners in State House 58 primary race 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 11:50pm]
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