TAMPA — Florida House incumbent Betty Reed won another term in the Legislature, and a slew of new faces moved on Tuesday to the general race for the House.
Hillsborough County's state House races brought a lot of unknowns to politics. Other than Reed, a Democrat representing Tampa's District 61, the field was packed with many who had never run campaigns.
Reed does not have a Republican challenger so she neatly sealed another victory Tuesday. Everyone else will go on to face opponents in November.
Jake Raburn, 27, scooped up the GOP candidacy for the new District 57 Florida House seat Tuesday night, winning 70 percent of the vote against opponent Brian Hollands, 45.
"We're very humbled and grateful," Raburn said from a celebration at Park Square Cellar in FishHawk Ranch. "It's an overwhelming feeling."
District 57 encompasses the southeastern corner of Hillsborough County and includes Riverview, FishHawk, Apollo Beach and Wimauma.
Raburn has worked for two years as a marketing specialist with the Florida Department of Citrus and is active in the agriculture community.
He said his top goal, if he wins the general election against Democrat Bruce Barnett, is to improve the business climate by reducing taxation and regulation.
"We'll be getting started tomorrow working on our campaign for November, utilizing our volunteers and support that we've generated so far to carry our conservative message forward and represent the people of District 57," Raburn said.
By less than 200 votes, Republican Ross Spano won his party's primary Tuesday for the District 59 state House seat. The win came as a surprise, Spano said.
"Everything we heard going into tonight said we were probably a few points back," he said. He credits his grass roots campaign for the success.
Spano, who edged out three opponents, took nearly 40 percent of the vote to win the seat previously held by Rep. Rachel Burgin, who ran unsuccessfully in a state Senate race Tuesday. He competed against Joe Wicker, Betty Jo Tompkins and Michael Floyd.
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.
He now faces Democrat Gail Gottlieb and write-in candidate Timothy Edward McCorkle.
District 59 covers Brandon, Riverview and Valrico.
Democratic incumbent Betty Reed handily won re-election Tuesday for her final term in the District 61 state House seat.
Reed, 71, took more than 80 percent of the vote in her precincts, some of which include new constituents as a result of redistricting.
"I am very grateful for their support and being able to serve in District 61, part of which is a new district for me," Reed said. "I'm just very humbled by the turnout and thankful for each and every vote."
The win ushers Reed, who was first elected to the seat in 2006, into her last two-year term in the House as there is no Republican candidate in the general election.
Reed is a mother of five and former director of career services for Remington College. She focused her time in the House on health care, education and social rights.
Challenger Tatiana Denson, 33, was a relatively unknown newcomer. The managed health care consultant campaigned on the need for a "generational change" and her connection to the people of the district.
District 61 encompasses the neighborhoods of Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Temple Crest.
Hillsborough middle school science teacher Mark Danish, 58, won the Democratic primary with 62 percent of the vote.
"We had a game plan, and our game plan was to get in touch with as many people as possible," he said Tuesday. "I'm very happy about the win."
A newcomer to politics, Danish ran a grass roots campaign, focusing less on raising money and more on canvassing North Tampa neighborhoods. He estimates he personally met with more than 3,000 people.
His platform was similar to that of his opponent, Tampa lawyer Z.J. Hafeez, 28. Both said they would focus on jobs, education and infrastructure if elected. They opposed the controversial "stand your ground" law and the state's emphasis on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Their most apparent differences were age and experience. Hafeez had impressive education credentials. Danish spent 17 years instructing seventh-graders.
Danish faces Republican Shawn Harrison in November in a district that due to last year's redistricting leans more Democratic than when Harrison was elected two years ago.
"It's a good sign, but I'm not going to let it change what I have to do," he said, "because there's a lot of work to be done."
Jessica Vander Velde