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St. Petersburg's Ben Diamond wins House District 68 Democratic primary

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After a campaign that divided Pinellas County's Democratic base between two progressive and well-connected candidates, lawyer Ben Diamond edged out defense strategist Eric Lynn in Tuesday's primary for state House District 68.

Taking 54 percent of the vote to Lynn's 46 percent, Diamond will go on to face Republican home health care company founder Joseph Bensmihen in the general election on Nov. 8, according to early results.

"I just feel such appreciation and thanks for all the people who have helped me in this campaign," Diamond said. "I'm just very appreciative of all the support I've received and excited the campaign will continue on to November."

Diamond, 37, who previously worked as counsel to former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, said the priorities in his first bid for elected office will be increasing funding for water protection and endangered lands, reinvesting in public schools, and expanding energy policy to focus on solar power.

For a time, Diamond had a clear path to victory as the only Democrat vying for the legislative seat being vacated by state Rep. Dwight Dudley, which covers much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and the Feather Sound area. That changed in May when Lynn dropped his bid for Congressional District 13, after former Gov. Charlie Crist jumped in to that Democratic primary, and switched to the House 68 race.

But Diamond's campaign edged on, raising $268,028, along with $68,000 by his political committee. Lynn's campaign raised $111,142 on top of the $384,205 from his committee.

Diamond said he's looking forward to "a great debate" in the coming weeks with Bensmihen, who lost a bid for Congress last year and relocated from Palm Beach County in April.

"Tonight, I really want to focus on thanking the people in the Democratic Party that helped me get this far," Diamond said. "I do think the voters in Pinellas in November are going to have a clear choice."

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

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