CLEARWATER — Even as political veteran Jack Latvala declared a landslide victory Tuesday in the Republican primary for state Senate District 20, his opponent refused to concede.
With 135 of 135 precincts reporting, Latvala had 85.7 percent of the vote. Political newcomer Zahid Roy trailed with a distant 14.2 percent.
"I'm very happy and appreciative of the confidence that the Republican voters have placed in me," said Latvala. "And because it's a largely new area for me, that makes it extra special," referring to running in new communities because of redistricting.
Not so fast, Roy said.
A Clearwater auto body repair shop owner with a background in computer technology and data mining, Roy said he was suspicious of how the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections servers malfunctioned Tuesday — a phenomenon he compared to the contested Gore/Bush 2000 presidential race.
According to Roy, a pre-election straw poll, word-of-mouth supporters and his close alignment with Pinellas sheriff candidate Everett Rice (who got more than 30,000 votes while losing his countywide primary) indicated he should have fared better. He wants to review all elections data related to his race, as allowed by law.
"There is no way I would have only gotten 14 percent," said Roy, as he watched the results from his Clearwater home. "Something is fishy. I can smell it."
He added: "I'm not going to concede until I'm satisfied with the results."
Redistricting this year created the new Senate District 20, stretching from Largo to Tarpon Springs.
A win would bring Latvala one step closer to his goal of becoming Senate president by 2016 — the first from Pinellas County in almost a century. But first, Latvala must face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Ashley M. Rhodes-Courter.
Latvala, 60, is a business owner and political consultant who served eight years in the Senate from 1994 to 2002 and then returned in 2010 to Senate District 16. He raised $483,910 and spent $216,590 as of Aug. 9.
He listed the economy and unemployment, protecting the environment and consumer rights, improving education and toughening penalties for violent criminals as his top priorities.
Roy, 45 and a native of Pakistan, pegged himself as an average citizen whose experiences have prompted him to stand up for small businesses and the American middle class.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.