TAMPA — Middle school science teacher Mark Danish ousted incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison in a tight race that oscillated between the two Tuesday evening.
But by 10 p.m. the upset was clear: Danish, a Democrat, had won District 63 with 50.45 percent of the vote.
"It was a rush when the last precinct came in," said Danish, 58. "Our gut feeling was that we were going to win it by 2 percent, some said 1 percent. We knew it would be extremely close."
He won by about 600 votes and celebrated with friends and family at his New Tampa house.
District 63 includes Lutz, New Tampa, Seminole Heights, Town 'N Country, Egypt Lake and Ybor City. It leans Democrat.
Danish credits his victory to his supporters, which included numerous unions, and his group's intense door-to-door canvassing. Money appeared to be less of a factor, as Danish was vastly out-spent by Harrison, a Tampa lawyer and businessman.
Danish is a longtime Hillsborough County teacher. He said he's excited to get to work in Tallahassee and hopes to make an impact in education policy.
Republican Ross Spano narrowly won the race Tuesday night for the District 59 state House seat against Democrat Gail Gottlieb.
"He's really happy he won," said Brock Mikosky, who worked on Spano's campaign. Spano did not return messages left for him.
With a little more than 1,000 votes separating the two, it was a tight race in an area that traditionally votes Republican.
District 59 covers Brandon, Riverview and Valrico. The seat was previously held by Rep. Rachel Burgin, who ran unsuccessfully in a state Senate primary race earlier this year.
Spano, 45, has 14 years of experience as a lawyer and owns a law firm. He also serves as a board member of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce.
— Shelley Rossetter
Republican Jake Raburn, 27, dominated the race for the new District 57 Florida House seat Tuesday night, easily besting his opponent, Democrat Bruce Barnett.
"I'm extremely humbled that the voters of our district have put their confidence in me to help us lead Florida in the next two years," Raburn said from a celebration with friends and family at Park Square Cellar in FishHawk Ranch.
"We could sum up tonight in two words, and that's: thank you."
Raburn has worked for two years as a marketing specialist with the Florida Department of Citrus and is active in the agriculture community. Barnett, 49, is a logistics manager for General Transportation Services who campaigned heavily on reforming the state's education system.
Now that the election is over, Raburn said his first priority will be to assemble a staff and set up a district office that is accessible to his constituents.
Once he formally takes office, Raburn said he wants to help improve the state's economy.
"We'll start getting to work at reducing regulation on business and working toward having an environment that is friendly toward job creation," he said.
District 57 encompasses the southeastern corner of Hillsborough County and includes Riverview, FishHawk, Apollo Beach and Wimauma.
— Liz Behrman
Republican Dan Raulerson, a former Plant City mayor, was elected to represent the new state House District 58 seat, defeating political newcomer Democrat Jose Vazquez, who lost the endorsement of his own party in the campaign's final month.
Raulerson won 57 percent of the 55,000 votes.
Raulerson, 55, an accountant, outspent and outcampaigned his Democratic challenger, running TV ads and visiting more than 7,000 homes in a district stretching from Temple Terrace to the Polk County line and Interstate 4 to the Pasco line.
Vazquez made headlines four years ago when he ran as a write-in candidate for a state House seat while in prison for driving with a revoked or suspended license. He again became the focus of attention when in early October he lost the endorsement of Hillsborough Democrats after feuding with party leaders.
Raulerson celebrated at O'Brien's Irish Pub in Plant City with his wife, Shirley, and about 100 friends and supporters.
"We felt pretty good we might pull this out. My feeling is Jose gave it a heck of a run. He stepped up to the plate, which is very courageous and I respect him for that," Raulerson said. "I feel very fortunate to win and I will go up there and make the best decisions I can for all the people of the district."
— Rich Shopes
Incumbent Democrat Janet Cruz, 56, scooped up the District 62 Florida House seat Tuesday night, winning 70 percent of the vote against Republican opponent Wesley Warren, 48.
"This is probably one of the largest percentage wins in the county," Cruz said from a victory party at Montauro Ristorante in West Tampa. "To me, that's a vote of confidence from the people of the district."
District 62 includes West Tampa, Egypt Lake, Seminole Heights and Town 'N Country.
Cruz was first elected to represent the district in 2010. She said her top goal is to keep working-class families working.
"This vote means my message is resonating with the people," Cruz said. "I'm honored."
She plans to get to work right away on two bills, one focused on job creation and the other on helping women detect breast cancer earlier.
— Elizabeth Parker