State Rep. Travis Hutson cruised Tuesday to an easy win in a special Republican primary for a Senate seat in Northeast Florida, setting him up for a likely general election win in April. Meanwhile, Republicans Paul Renner and Cyndi Stevenson won primaries for two House seats in the region.
With all precincts reporting, Hutson, R-Elkton, led the three-man field in Senate District 6 with 52.2 percent of the vote. Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart came in second, carrying 35.1 percent of the vote, and Dennis McDonald was a distant third with almost 12.7 percent.
In a phone interview shortly after the win, Hutson said a campaign ground game propelled him to victory.
“We had a huge volunteer force that came out every Saturday to walk for us,” Hutson said.
The campaign knocked on 9,000 doors, and Hutson said he personally called undecided voters to persuade them.
Hutson will face Democrat David Cox in a general election scheduled for April 7; Cox is a decided underdog in the heavily Republican district, which includes all of St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties and the northeast corner of Volusia County.
The seat opened up after former Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, resigned from the Legislature last year to become the president of Florida State University, his alma mater. That touched off a heated primary between Hutson and Renuart, who both announced they would leave their House seats to run for the Senate. Their resignations from the House are effective the day before the special general election.
In the closing weeks of the race, Hutson and Renuart traded allegations about contributions to Democratic candidates and the role of third-party groups in the race.
Renuart complained about third-party ads that peddled, in the words of his website, “outrageous false claims accusing me of working with Obama and Crist to raise taxes.” Hutson distanced himself from the advertising and slammed Renuart’s attempt to tie Hutson to political donations made by a family corporation.
Special primaries were also held Tuesday to fill the Hutson and Renuart House seats. Renner, who lost a GOP race for another Northeast Florida House seat last year, easily won the primary to replace Hutson.
Renner carried almost 70.2 percent of the vote in House District 24, which includes Flagler County as well as portions of St. Johns and Volusia counties.
Two other Republicans, Ron Sanchez and Danielle Anderson, split the remainder of the vote. Renner will face Democrat Adam Morley in the special general election.
Stevenson, a St. Johns County commissioner, edged out Michael Davis in Renuart’s district. Both candidates spent more than $100,000 in the GOP primary in House District 17, which also included candidate Jack Capra. Stevenson garnered 41.6 percent of the vote to 39.2 percent
for Davis; Capra had 19.2 per-cent.
The race was close for a while, with Stevenson and Davis running neck-and-neck, but Stevenson’s lead built as later results poured in.
The district includes parts of St. Johns County. Stevenson will face Judy Stevens, a candidate running without a party affiliation, in the general election.
The general elections for those House seats, which are both expected to go to the GOP candidates, are also scheduled for April 7.