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Iraq war vet felt dad's influence in campaign

Democrat Michael Scionti won an easy victory over his opponent, Republican Alfred "Al" Ruiz, in the race for the District 58 seat of the state House of Representatives.

"I'm a winner because of all the good people who are here," Scionti said of his family and supporters who awaited results with him at Tampa's "political nerve center," the Valencia Gardens Restaurant.

Scionti entered the race soon after returning from Army service in Iraq. He replaces Democratic state Rep. Bob "Coach" Henriquez, who couldn't seek re-election because of term limits.

Scionti, 38, is the son of the late Mike Scionti, who was chairman of the county Democratic Executive Committee.

His resume includes stints as a social worker, a state prosecutor, a deputy sheriff and an Army captain - experiences that Scionti said will help him write legislation.

Scionti's political connections gave him an edge, particularly in the heavily Democratic district.

Still, he waged an energetic campaign against his GOP rival, and attracted campaign contributions from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Scionti said he wants to increase veterans' benefits; raise salaries for police officers, fire and emergency workers, and teachers; and create incentives for people to invest in their homes.

Scionti said he felt his father's presence throughout the race.

"I believe my father is with me every step of the way."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or