TAMPA — With just a week and a half left in the regular legislative session, Jamie Grant reclaimed his seat in the state House of Representatives in a landslide win in Tuesday’s special election.
His opponent, write-in candidate Daniel Matthews, received about 650 votes out of about 7,600 cast.
Grant celebrated his win by leaving at about 8 p.m. to drive to Tallahassee. The 32-year-old Republican tech entrepreneur will be sworn in shortly after the session starts at 9 a.m. today and will then “get back to work.”
“I’m a believer that you make the best out of every circumstance you are presented in life, and we’re certainly ready to have this ordeal behind us,” Grant said.
Grant represents parts of northwest Hillsborough and eastern Pinellas counties and was first elected to House District 64 in 2010. Although he was re-elected in November by a 19-point margin over Republican challenger Miriam Steinberg, the House threw out the results, citing unresolved litigation over Matthews’ run as a write-in candidate.
The protracted legal struggle meant more than 157,000 people have gone unrepresented for much of the legislative session. The session is scheduled to end May 1, though it is likely the ongoing fight over Medicaid will require a special session.
A suit was filed in June by Steinberg’s husband claiming that Matthews should be disqualified from the election because he didn’t live in the district he filed to represent. A Tallahassee circuit judge agreed and disqualified him, but Matthews appealed, and a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with him.
The case eventually made its way to the Florida Supreme Court, and Gov. Rick Scott ordered a special election between Grant and Matthews.
Since Matthews first filed as a write-in candidate, the Tribune has been unable to reach him through repeated phone calls and visits to the home in Northdale that’s listed as his address. The 25-year-old Florida State University graduate didn’t publicly campaign or raise money.
Grant, the son of former state Sen. John Grant of Tampa, said he has been keeping up with fellow legislators and paying attention to news reports and Twitter feeds chronicling current issues. He hopes to still do some work on legislation that would benefit condominium owners and ride-booking services like Lyft and Uber, and also “help land the plane when it comes to health care reform,” Grant said.
Tribune Writer James Rosica contributed to this report.